For the Children

Pretty Big Feet, directed by Yang Yazhou, 1996, China

feet2Zhang Meili (“pretty”), name embarrasses her because she has big feet that traditional Chinese men who are used to seeing women in bond feet consider ugly; lives in a rural area where water is in short supply; widowed when her husband, an illerate, is executed for stealing railway spikes, which resulted in derailment and many deaths; son soon dies afterward, leaving her nothing to live for; dedicates herself to the children in her village and to helping them learn to read and write; finds ways to buy a computer for “her” kids; other than her compassion for kids, also driven by love for a married man that likes her at lot more than his wife; her efforts to make something of her life sustain her until she is killed when the tructor she is on gets stalled on railway and run over by oncoming train; says dying, “in birth, people come into the world crying; in death people should leave this world laughing”

feet4Xia Yu, a young college educated woman from Beijing who follows her ideals and volunteers to teach in backward rural areas; still quite shocked by the primitive conditions in the village where Meili lives and teaches Chinese and English without any formal training herself; moved by Meili’s dedication to kids but it takes her some time to be comfortable with this country woman who has very different values and views on such issues as abortion, femininity, female virtue; despite their differences, gradually comes to enjoy her company and appreciate her efforts to make life as comfortable as humanly possible for her; invites her and the kids to Beijing to live with her and her boyfriend but decides not to return; a falling out with her boyfriend and the news of Meili’s fatal accident bring her back to the village where the role of a dedicated teacher and a group of uninitiated children await her

feet1Wang Shu, an itinerary film projectionist who travels on a motorcycle from village to village in rural area to show movies to peasants that have no cinema to go to; married with one son; wife very abusive and regularly beats him; endures her physical abuse while seeing Meili in their secret rendevous; with a quit wit and able to improvise during film screening; as a public figure, very discreet when it comes to his domestic trouble or his liason with Meili; supports her morally as much as he can


Wang Da he, name means “big river”; son of Wang Shu; the very type kids who, if without some sort of basic education, would easily repeat the life of Meili’s husband; igorant, neglected, and quick to act without any thought about the consequences of his actions; active participant in Meili’s class and obedient to her instructions; seems to understand what’s going on between his teacher and father, and what’s happening between his parents

flour Zhao Mianfen, name “mianfen” means flour or dough; the richest man in the village and an entrepreneur owning a small flour mill with a dozen or so peasants as his employees; without any concern for the public interests in the village; spends lots of money throwing a party on the ninetieth birthday of his dead mother but refuses to donate anything when asked to help buy a computer for the village children; cornered for contribution, promises in public to give money to Meili when and if she drinks up a whole bottle of hard liquor at the party; has his way with her when she is drunk


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