Blind Mountain (Mang shan) (2007) • China

Bai Xuemei, recently graduated from college, is unwittingly sold, not by her family but by her friends, to a villager deep in the bowels of mountainous rural China ... in the 1990s! This is not a documentary. It's more a typical horror film pacing through a Texas Chainsaw Massacre suffocating terror without any blood, there's only psychological and physical abuse, including rape—father and mother hold her down while her purchaser rapes her. Ouch!

China is a vast expanse and this film's cinematography captures that space wonderfully. Bai Xuemei is so far up in the mountains it is simply too far for her to run to safety.

Lu Huang who plays Bai Xuemei is the only professional actor in the film. The rest of the cast, from the shopkeeper to the Village Chief, are actual villagers. When the police arrive to make a rescue and the whole village gangs up on them demanding the girl repay the 7,000 they paid for her if she is to return home, it rings with a frightening authenticity. I watched this film feeling that with 5 minutes left to go she would be rescued despite everything suggesting otherwise.

It's not that kind of film. Blind Mountain is an essay on the collision of traditional and contemporary Chinese culture. It's not pedantic, nor is it belittling to the realities of the culture at its source, but it's hard not to see it that way, especially through twentieth-century, western eyes. The film does a remarkable job of showing that it's not a matter of simply enforcing contemporary law. It's much deeper and more difficult than that.


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