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China, 1998 (MIFF 1998, Regional Features)

Director: Joan Chen

During China's Cultural Revolution around 7.5 million 'intellectual youth' were 'sent down' to the countryside to learn skills of manual labour and rural life. Xiu Xiu, based on Yan Geling's novella Tian Yu, tells an intimate tale of a young student trapped in a movement which has long since lost its purpose. When Xiu Xiu is sent down, she is told that she will return home in six months. Unbeknownst to her, the government has no intention of bringing her back. Xiu Xiu's new 'instructor' is a Tibetan herdsman, Lao Jin, who slowly warms to the young girl. In spite of Lao Jin's efforts to ease her misery, Xiu Xiu seeks ways home by trading sex with peddlers, soldiers and bureaucrats. The unspoken love between Xiu Xiu and Lao Jin becomes a lasting bond that transcends both generation and culture.

Filmed in a remote location on the Sichuan-Tibet border, Xiu Xiu was shot without official clearance from China's Film Bureau. Even though the film never overtly criticises the Communist Party, the underlying message of innocence lost and a broken generation strongly suggests where the film's sympathies lie.

"Yan Geling and I finished writing the script during the most beautiful month of the year on the high plateau. Each morning we were amazed by a new wave of colours that stretched across the fields of wild flowers. The vastness of the land and sky lent magnitude to this intimate story... It was on this high plateau that our characters had lived, in an army tent under the sky. Lao Jin, a peaceful man wilh a legendary past; and Xiu Xiu, a tailor's daughter, who would destroy his peace." - Joan Chen

Shanghai-born actor Joan Chen was selected for the Actors' Training Program by the Shanghai Film Studio in 1975. In 1981 she moved to America to study filmmaking. Since then she has acted in many feature films in the US and China, including The Last Emperor (1987), Turtle Beach (1992) and Stanley Kwan's Red Rose, White Rose (1993). Xiu Xiu is her directorial debut.

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