China, Japan | 114 MINUTES | Local Dialects |
With this ravishing new film, Tian Zhuangzhuang returns to the pastoral cinematic territory of the documentary-based ethnographic explorations of his earlier masterpieces, On the Hunting Ground and The Horse Thief. Shot along an ancient trading route that is etched on the mountainside from the high plateau in Western Yunnan to the trading outposts of Tibet, above the roar of the Nujiang Rive, Delamu is animated by a series of portraits of people along the way. An old Protestant pastor has returned to his church and his fellow Lisu tribesmen in his parish after years of exile and imprisonment during the Cultural Revolution; a young Tibetan describes his life with his older brother and the wife they share; an old woman from the Nu minority recalls the days when soldiers of the Kuomintang sought out her hand in marriage; and a young wrangler speaks tenderly of the sure-footed mules and ponies who help him make his living. The range and utterly compelling humanity of these and other intimate sketches are as awe-inspiring as the plunging gorges and the soaring mountains that form the backdrop of this work of measured beauty.