XIU XIU: THE SENT DOWN GIRL brutally but lyrically documents what happens when Chinese Communist officials sexually abuse a teenage girl who's forced to work with a kindly Tibetan herder of horses. The anti-Communist worldview of the movie is undercut by problems in character motivation and character credibility, as well as some graphic sexual situations, a "mercy" killing and suicide and some strong obscenities.
XIU XIU: THE SENT DOWN GIRL brutally but lyrically documents one of the totalitarian horrors of Communist China’s Cultural Revolution in the late 60s and early to mid 70s. It tells the story of one of millions of young people from the cities who were sent down to the countryside to be indoctrinated with Maoism and to learn what it’s like to live the peasant lifestyle. This policy was meant to fulfill one of Karl Marx’s programs in THE COMMUNIST MANISFESTO.
Living in the city of Chengdu in 1975, Wen Xiu (talented newcomer Lu Lu) is the pretty older daughter of a resourceful clothing factory worker and his wife. Narrating her story is her boyfriend, who says that everyone calls her Xiu Xiu. Xiu Xiu goes off to work the fields in a rural province near Tibet. One Saturday night at the regular Communist movie showing, one of the junior Communist officials puts a hand on her where he shouldn’t. Xiu Xiu angrily dresses him down, humiliating him in the process. In the audience, a rough-looking man in rural dress laughs at her funny insults. She does not notice him, however.
The next day or so, a camp official informs Xiu Xiu that, because of her diligent work, she is being sent to an even more remote place to learn how to herd horses. He also tells her that, after six months, she will then help lead the White River Iron Girls Calvary. The official says she will be trained by an expert horseman named Lao Jin, a Tibetan who turns out to be the rough-looking man at the Saturday night movie. Lao Jin (played by an actor named only Lopsang in an excellent performance) rides a horse back to his camp. Meanwhile, the driver in the truck taking Xiu Xiu informs her that Lao Jin was castrated by the Chinese during a battle of some kind about 20 years earlier. It turns out that everyone likes to make crude jokes about Lao Jin’s regrettable injury.
Xiu Xiu is depressed to find that Lao Jin is completely alone tending horses, and he only has one large tent where they both must sleep. Lao Jin, however, respects her privacy, despite her complaints. As the days turn to months, Lao Jin secretly falls in love with this beautiful, precocious girl from the city.
Six months later, the Communist officials from the camp fail to send the truck back for Xiu Xiu. Instead, a young peddler shows up twice. He gains Xiu Xiu’s confidence, telling her that most of the girls from Chengdu have left the re-education center. He explains to her that either their families have connections or the girls have fornicated with several Communist officials at the camp. Xiu Xiu is clearly attracted to the peddler, who brags about the influence he has with Communist officials. When he shows up the second time, she lets him copulate with her, at first reluctantly. Although she was attracted to the man, the movie indicates she really let him fornicate with her to gain his help to go home to Chengdu. Suddenly, however, other Communist officials show up (the peddler never does return) and Xiu Xiu starts prostituting herself in order to bribe them to let her go home. The question is, how long will the quiet, honorable Lao Jin put up with this awful state of affairs?
Despite the brutality and somewhat graphic sex and nudity in this movie, it is beautifully photographed and edited to create a lyrical view of Lao Jin’s harsh life in the countryside. Even so, the movie’s story seems a little far-fetched, especially when the Communist officials make repeated visits to Xiu Xiu’s bed. Everyone at the Communist re-education camp seems totally complicit in this extreme state of affairs, with no one but Lao Jin sympathetic to Xiu Xiu’s plight.
Also, Lao Jin’s actions in the story lack credibility. In an earlier scene, Lao Jin kindly builds an outdoor bath for Xiu Xiu and fires a rifle to protect her modesty from some yak herders who happen to appear. So, why doesn’t he ever make an effort to protect Xiu Xiu from the visits by the Communist officials, especially when a couple of the men seem to actually rape her or forcibly sodomize her? Also, why doesn’t he ever really try to take her back home? Thus, the latter scenes seem to contradict what the audience learns about Lao Jin from the earlier scene.
Perhaps, then, this story should not be taken literally. Maybe viewers should think of it more figuratively, as the rape, corruption and prostitution of China, symbolized by Xiu Xiu, by the Communist system. In such a view, Lao Jin symbolizes the emasculation of Tibet, which now only can sit by and watch as Communist China first corrupts the Chinese people, then the rest of the world, including the United States of America and the Democratic and Republican Parties. Thus, the whole world is in danger of becoming a whore that is sodomized, economically and politically, by the Red Dragon, one of today’s most potent symbols of Marxist authority.
Naturally, China has banned this uneven, but well-acted, movie. It was filmed secretly in Tibet by Chinese actress Joan Chen, whose ability to travel to China has been revoked by the Chinese government, which has received favorable treatment from both the Clinton and the Bush administrations. Despite her good political intentions, Chen should have given more thought to Lao Jin’s character development and delved more deeply into how Chinese Communist ideology degenerated into such a sad state of affairs. For instance, why not let Lao Jin take stronger action and have he and Xiu Xiu be further oppressed by Communist Party officials in some new, revealing way that also helps explain the actions of Xiu Xiu’s sexual oppressors? Both might have helped make XIU XIU a much better, more entertaining, more informative, more believable, and more moving exercise.
Strong anti-communist worldview with moral elements mixed with a slightly romantic worldview about human nature & including characters who behave in strong pagan ways; 23 obscenities; blood shown after apparent abortion & one scene where hero tries to fight off villains plus off-screen mercy killing (only a shot is heard) & off-screen suicide; implied & depicted fornication & sodomy, done in order to gain favor from corrupt Chinese Communist officials; rear female nudity in naturalistic context & upper & rear female nudity in sexual context; alcohol use; smoking; and, young woman prostitutes herself to gain favors from officials at Chinese Communist indoctrination, relocation camp because they won't send her home.