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The Ditch (2010)

The Ditch (2010)
October 27, 2012 - 7:30 pm

The Ditch (2010)

US Premiere!

Directed by Wang Bing

Beginning in the late 1950s, thousands of citizens, deemed right-wing dissidents, were sent to forced labor camps to be “re-educated.” Filmed in secret in the Gobi Desert, and based on interviews with survivors as well as Yang Xianhui’s book, Goodbye, Jiabiangou, The Ditch is a harrowing depiction of life at the Jiabiangou Camp, where some 3,000 intellectuals were sent for years of backbreaking labor in the desert’s unrelentingly harsh environment. In his first dramatic feature, director Wang Bing vividly recreates the brutal conditions at the camp, where prisoners labor at the very edge of human endurance. The prisoners seem resigned to death, until a woman appears, searching for her husband, and inspires some of them to plot an escape.

With its emphasis on sensory details from the incessant, blinding desert sun to the slurping of the thin gruel on which its characters subsist, The Ditch is an intensely visceral experience, and a look at a period of Chinese history still rarely discussed today. Blending documentary and drama, Wang, best-known for the epic documentary West of the Tracks (2003), employs his eye for detail and meticulous research to create a visually and emotionally intense narrative, providing a perfect companion piece to his 2007 documentary portrait of a survivor of the Anti-Rightist Campaign and the Cultural Revolution, Fengming: A Chinese Memoir.

- Tom Vick

Producer: K. Lihong, Mao Hui, Philippe Avril, Francisco Villa-Lobos, Sebastien Delloye, Dianba Elbaum. Screenwriter: Wang Bing. Cinematographer: Lu Sheng. Editor: Marie-Hélèene Dozo. Cast: Lu Ye, Lian Renjun, Xu Cenzi, Yang Haoyu, Cheng Zhengwu, Jing Niansong.

35mm, color, Putonghua w/ English s/t, 109 min. 

This program has been made possible with funding support from the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies.