Directed by Joan Chen • 1998 • Hong Kong
Starring Li Xiaolu, Lopsang, Zheng Qian
Introduction: This film has been programmed as part of the series Hollywood Chinese, a survey on the history of Chinese representation in American cinema, curated by filmmaker Arthur Dong. He notes: “After her breakthrough performance in THE LAST EMPEROR, actress Joan Chen was frustrated with the limited job offers that called for her ethnic sexual appeal. She left the Hollywood scene and re-emerged with the independently produced XIU XIU: THE SENT DOWN GIRL, which she directed and cowrote.” For further context, we recommend watching Mr. Dong’s series introduction and his documentary HOLLYWOOD CHINESE, now playing on the Channel.
The extraordinary debut feature by Joan Chen is a heartrending immersion into the life of a teenage girl coming of age in 1970s China during the Cultural Revolution. As part of the government’s reeducation program, fifteen-year-old Xiu Xiu (Li Xiaolu) is “sent down” to the remote countryside of the Tibetan steppes, ostensibly to learn horse training. There, she finds herself abused and exploited by a string of opportunistic men, with the exception of a gentle guide (Lopsang) with whom she forms a powerful bond.