500M800M (2016) by Yao Tian

Yao Tian makes a pointy, and quite evident comment regarding two of China's most controversial (at least to the western world that is) policies

As stated in the film's ending, "Starting in January 1, 2016, China will officially end the so-called "one-child per family" policy that began 35 years ago, and having a second child is an option now. This policy is said to result in a population control over about 400 millions of unborn babies during this 35-year period. In 1997, the year the film is set, people living 800m above sea level were permitted to have two children. Those living between 500-800m could have two if the eldest child was a girl, and those living 500m above sea level could only have one ( I am not sure if the height law actually existed).

In this setting, we are introduced to Hong Feng, a woman married into a family who deals in ceramic dolls, whose members live in a mountain village over 800m above sea level. Hong Feng considers herself extremely lucky, since she is pregnant for the second time. Furthermore, their village is to be a natural resort, with the people having to relocate in a town below 500m, another event she considers fortunate, as her 8-year-old daughter will finally have the chance to go to school. However, this is where the problems start, since her husband's father, Sun, does not wish to leave the place, a resolve that strengthens even more, when his best friend, a man of similar age commits suicide to avoid the relocation. Eventually, and since her husband is reluctant to leave his father, she goes on ahead, only with her daughter. As soon as she arrives there, though, she is informed by the Director of Family Planning Office, that she cannot have a second child, despite the fact that she is already 5 months pregnant. The man in charge of the village informs the family that he will ask for a favor in their stead, if they convince her father-in-law to come to the new house.


Yao Tian makes a pointy, and quite evident comment regarding two of China's most controversial (at least to the western world that is) policies: The "one-child per family" policy, and the forced relocation of masses of population, due to the "Three Gorges Dam" project.  His take on these laws is eloquently presented by both the struggles of the people to relocate, particularly the elderly, who feel like uprooted trees, and the ridiculousness of a law that allows children to be born according to the height they are conceived. Furthermore, the way the latter policy is implemented, with the local office acting like the mafia, paints this law with even darker colors, to the point that it is quite hard for the spectator not to be angry with the struggles of a pregnant mother. However, the film ends with a kind of an optimistic and hopeful tone, although not for the pheasant.

"500M800M" is also a very beautiful film, with Zhou Wenbin's cinematography presenting a plethora of gorgeous images of the mountains in the area, where nature seems to be at its best, filled with colors and life. The contrast is obvious in the depiction of the town the family relocates, which is painted in grey, and quite dull tones. Another point of excellence is the framing, with Yao Tian presenting a number of frames that combine beauty with meaning, as with the scene where Sun's friend is sitting below a large image of Mao, while he ties his loose ends, before he commits suicide. A couple of frames that make excellent use of shadows, also stand out. Xu Wenni's editing is competent, and has its highlight in the sequencing of Sun's change of mind.


In this setting, which focuses on critique, the acting is placed in the background, to a point at least. However, Chen Ling as Hong Feng and Wu Chengxian as Sun give wonderful performances, with the first excelling in the dramatic scenes and the second when he is being stubborn, and later, when his resolve seems unwavering.

"500M800M" is a film that presents Yao Tian's opinion in obvious and visually impressive fashion


"500M800M" is screening at the Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian cinema, running from 7 to 14 February.

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Asian Film Vault: 500M800M (2016) by Yao Tian
500M800M (2016) by Yao Tian
Yao Tian makes a pointy, and quite evident comment regarding two of China's most controversial (at least to the western world that is) policies
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