Three Sisters: (San Zimei)

From The dGenerate Films Collection

Directed by Wang Bing

153 minutes / Color
English; Mandarin / English subtitles
Release: 2016
Copyright: 2012

One of his generation's most important documentary filmmakers, director Wang Bing is at the height of his powers in THREE SISTERS. The film introduces viewers to 10-year-old YingYing, 6-year-old Zhenzhen and 4-year-old Fenfen, who live alone in Xiyangtang, a tiny rural village in the high mountains of China's Yunnan province. Their father is away working in the city; their mother left the family long ago.

film still

The girls help their grandfather or aunt in exchange for meals. They spend their days at grueling tasks: herding sheep, goats and pigs, searching for firewood, collecting dung. Games are few and far between. The eldest, Yingying, is her sisters' primary caretaker, shouldering responsibilities far beyond her years.

Wang's hand-held footage beautifully captures the region's dramatic landscapes and plunging, mountainous scenery in THREE SISTERS, an essential part of the international film canon.

"Critic's Pick! Documents extreme poverty in rural China with the compassionate eye and inexhaustible patience of a director whose curiosity about his country's unfortunates never seems to wane."The New York Times

"An unquestionably eye-opening, deeply human, strikingly lensed look at an impoverished family whose rudimentary living conditions are a sharp riposte to the illusion of China's economic boom."Jay Weissberg, Variety

"An affecting look at provincial Chinese life."Aaron Cutler, The Village Voice

"Exquisite. However briefly, [Yingying] is empress of this inhospitable domain."Andrew Chan, Film Comment

"One of the most important documentary filmmakers of his generation, and perhaps the preeminent chronicler of contemporary China, Wang Bing returns to the non-fiction realm with Three Sisters, a patient, penetrating, and heartbreaking portrait of three young girls. As he so clearly demonstrated in his towering, 9-hour West of the Tracks (2003), Wang is a master of long-form documentary filmmaking, and here he portrays the lives of his three protagonists, as well as the community and the landscapes around them, with an extraordinary sensitivity, openness, and clarity of vision.Jed Rapfogel, program director, Anthology Film Archives

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Select Accolades

  • Best Film Orrizonti Award, Venice Film Festival
  • Best Film Award, Doc Lisboa
  • Audience Award and Best Film Award, Festival des 3 Continents
  • Best Documentary Award, Dubai Film Festival
  • Grand prix Award, Ecumenical jury Award, E-changer Award, Don Quijote Award, Fribourg Film Festival
  • Toronto International Film Festival
  • Hong Kong Film Festival
  • Edinburgh Film Festival
  • New Zealand Film Festival
  • Taipei Film Festival
  • China Onscreen Biennial


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