Thatched Cottages on the Enclave
CHINA / 2010 / Chinese / Color / Blu-ray (SD) / 55 min
Director: Meng Xiaowei
Photography: Meng Xiaowei, Gao Chuanzhou
Producer: Liu Su
Source: Meng Xiaowei
This mountain community in Gansu Province, China, was created over 20 years ago by migrants. From morning till night, adults calmly cut wood and harvest rhubarb to make a living. Children run around in the fields, and the menfolk are deep in conversation every night. This simple and peaceful life, however, is to disappear with the forests. A neutral camera captures the lives of those who worry about their town’s end, exposing the everyday vitality of these villagers.
[Director’s Statement] In Taoping Township, Lixian County, Gansu Province, there is a one-square-kilometer birch forest that for administrative purposes belongs to Goujiayuan Village, Tanchang County, Gansu Province. About 20 years ago, four families of Goujiayuan Village came to the forest to cut down trees and plant rhubarb. Now the number of families has increased to 30. I went there to paint years ago and just had a faint impression of the place, but felt the natural scenery and thatch-roofed huts were very beautiful and humanistic.
In 2002, I came back to my hometown from a painter village in Shanghai. Together with Gao Chuanzhou, a friend in the photography field in Lanzhou, we went to Lixian to look for a documentary theme. There, we got a chance to look into the living conditions of the people. We felt that there was less birch forest and fewer people than before we started shooting.
It was extremely difficult at the beginning; we even couldn’t drive our jeep there if it happened to be rainy for days, and the rhubarb could be harvested only once every three years. So every year, I had to come back from Shanghai to shoot, trying to reflect the characteristics of different seasons. Thus, it took three years to finish the film. For a time, I broke off the film editing and once even thought of giving up because I couldn’t find a satisfying plot. Anyway, finally I have made this documentary, whose original title is “To Leave or To Stay,” which implies unwillingness to leave.
Born in 1962. Meng Xiaowei graduated from Tianshui Normal University, he engaged in oil painting and documentary filmmaking. His documentary films include The Route of the Long March (2006), Hemp Paper (2006), Wangxi (2009), and The Road of West (2011). His paintings have been presented in various exhibitions.