Left Behind: The Rural Children of Chinas Alternative Cinema


Against the narrative of success propagated by the Chinese government, China's independent filmmakers have committed themselves towards articulating an alternative vision of her phenomenal transformation in recent years. One important subject is that of rural children being left behind by parents who go in search of better job prospects and lives in the city. Using the documentary form or fiction, films such as Wang Bing's Three Sisters (2012), Huang Ji's Egg and Stone (2012) and Fang Lixin's Last Train Home (2009), depict the dire situations of these children that tacitly question the heavy price of China's economic miracle. Although the child as a subject is often seen as a tactic used by filmmakers to evoke pity and sympathy in audiences, the children in these alternative films are far from being portrayed as powerless. Despite the condition of their marginal situations, they portray a grit and tenacity towards the harsh circumstances they face, exuding a zest and determination to learn, discover and deal with what life throws at them. My paper examines the critical function that this depiction of rural children plays in constructing a narrative of resistance in alternative films, towards the dominant perspectives of how rural spaces are portrayed in China, the seemingly lack of agency that is attached to them and the complex relationship of power that resides between the State and these 'abandoned' children.

Author Information
Edson Ng Li-Chun, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Paper Information
Conference: FilmAsia2015
Stream: Film Criticism and Theory

This paper is part of the FilmAsia2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon