Fleshing Out Life in Remote China

The New York Times reviews the documentary Ghost Town:

Zhao Dayong’s “Ghost Town,” a nearly three-hour-long visit to a remote Chinese mountain village, is hardly indifferent to social issues, but it approaches them obliquely, with open-minded curiosity and inexhaustible patience.

From the start Mr. Zhao’s camera is an acknowledged, if discreet, presence. In the opening shots, unseen residents of the town are heard commenting on how their familiar world looks as they peer through the lens. Later some of their neighbors address it directly and with minimal self-consciousness, talking about their personal histories, religious practices and the hardships they have faced.

What they have to say is fascinating — in particular the reminiscences of an elderly preacher who serves as the patriarch for the local Christian population — but Mr. Zhao has an exquisite ability to balance words with images. The life stories and household interactions that fill out the film’s three chapters take place against a natural background that is shot beautifully, though never ostentatiously. Green mountains and deep, shadowed valleys frame the desultory daily routines of the villagers, while the nonhuman population of dogs, chickens and pigs receives a proper and proportional share of attention.

Watch a trailer of the film:

March 15, 2010 8:47 PM
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