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Three Sisters

Distributed by Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Produced by Wang Yang
Directed by Wang Bing
DVD, color, 153 min., Mandarin & Yunnan dialect with English subtitles
College - General Adult
Anthropology, Sociology, Social Work

Reviewed by Rodney Birch, Reference Librarian, George Fox University

Date Entered: 5/16/2017

Three Sisters captures the essence of Chinese provincial life. The film is set in a tiny village (80 residents) in China’s Yunnan Province, and primarily follows three sisters, ages 10, 6 and 4. The 10-year old serves as the primary caregiver of the younger two sisters as they were abandoned by their mother and their father is off working in the city. The girls work for their aunt and grandfather, locating firewood, collecting dung, and herding livestock, in exchange for food. The film further captures the struggle of the rural villagers to survive in light of a government initiative for rural revitalization. Fees are collected from villagers to build new homes and run electricity. If the villagers are unable to pay the fees, their livestock is confiscated. In neighboring villages, new homes are being built but villagers are struggling to feed themselves. The film provides insight into an agrarian culture, as well as the family social structure. The film is long, but can be fast forwarded without losing too much of the context. The rudimentary village life is a sharp contrast to the pronounced economic boom in China. The documentary would be a useful narrative for students in anthropology, sociology, and social work.