In TRY TO REMEMBER, 22-year old Zhong Jian escorts his mother on a visit to the rural Chinese village, Yantang, where she grew up. Zhong films her as they walk around the village, pay a visit to his grandparents' graves, and chat with relatives and other villagers. Every place brings back fresh memories.
Zhong's mother is for the most part cheerfully nostalgic, but many of the stories she tells are serious, and always involve the two subjects--hunger and Mao's Cultural Revolution--that dominated her childhood. Her words pour out in a heartfelt cascade as she relates the misery of those days, and her childhood experiences as a Red Guard.
The family of seven sisters toiled hard on the land, but despite bountiful crops they often had nothing to eat. Zhong's mother was the only one permitted to go to school, so she could then tally the family's production. She recalls other families smashing their precious family heirlooms because personal possessions were considered "bourgeois," explains that she could not understand why some villagers were beaten because they were considered "bad," and recounts how you could cross a certain intersection only after quoting a few lines from the Chairman Mao's 'Little Red Book.'
More than just a film of historical reminiscence, however, TRY TO REMEMBER also shows that, in many ways, the pace and quality of life in rural China has remained essentially unchanged, with its poor farmers and illiterate peasants still struggling to make a living. It also reveals other contemporary concerns, from China's strictly enforced birth policies to the environmental degradation affecting the countryside.
"Recommended! Memories of village life in Cultural Revolution China shed light on a very important period of modern Chinese history."—Educational Media Reviews Online
2005 Yamagata International Documentary Festival
2005 Amsterdam International Documentary Festival