Story of Qiuju

Story of Qiu Ju, dir by Zhang Yimou, 1993, China

Qiu Ju, a peasant woman, married and pregnant, known for her good look; a functional illiterate with only middle school education but no ability to write formal letters; grows and sells chili for a living; when husband is assaulted by village authority, speaks up against the village head who has kicked her man in the groin; when an apology is not forthcoming and when mediation by officials is less than satisfactory, starts a quest for justice through legal system; would not take no for an answer; sells chili to finance her efforts to seek redress for her husband

Wan Qinglai, Qiu Ju’s husband, hopes to build a barn but his request to do so is denied by the head of his village; upset, curses the village head to have no male heir (the darkest curse one can get in a patriarchal society) and gets beat up and because of his injury in his private parts becomes impotent; able to bury the hatchet and put the unpleasant episode behind; no longer supportive of wife’s efforts to sue and seek redress through legal channels
Wang Shantang, the village head in charge of production and other matters relating to village life; a man of integrity, respected and supported by villagers and does not like his authority questioned or challenged by anyone; has four daughters but no son; also a male chauvinist who cannot tolerate disagreements from women in or outside his family; very rarely abuses his power but views himself as the law; refuses to apologize to Qinglai and resents Qiu Ju’s open defiance; yet saves her on the day she gives birth to a son; arrested for felonious assault;
Officer Lia police officer in a local Public Security Bureau (PSB); wishes to bring about a reconciliation between the village head and Qiu Ju through his mediation between the two parties; asks Wang to pay 200 yuan to Wan as compensation for his injury and suffering and tells Qiu Ju to drop any legal actions against the village head

Director Yan, city PSB chief; on hearing the dispute between Wang and Qiu Ju, affirms the decision made by Officer Li, but tells Qiu Ju to file a legal case against him if she feels not satisfied with the mediation attempt of Officer Li; when the municipal court rules in favor of his (Yan) decision to uphold the original judgment, tells Qiu Ju to hire a lawyer to represent her and appeal to higher courts if she is not happy with the ruling in his favor; takes Qiu Ju in his car and takes her and her sister-in-law to dinner

Lawyer, representing Qiu Ju for a fee; very professional and knows the court procedures well; his legal actions result in Wan Qinglai’s having to take an X-ray which, when showing broken rib, helps convict Wang of criminal battery and felonious assault


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