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An Academy Award-winning documentary short
produced by Thomas Lennon | directed by Ruby Yang
original language in Chinese | with English subtitles
USA / China | 2006 | 39 min | shot on mini-DV

Brief Synopsis

A year in the life of children in the remote villages of Anhui Province, China, who have lost their parents to AIDS. Traditional obligations to family and village collide with terror of the disease.

Long Synopsis

No-one knows how old Gao Jun is. Four? Older? Younger? Whatever his biological age, he has none of the verbal babble, or ready tears, of a child his age. The film tracks this orphan for a year as his closest surviving kin -- his uncles -- weigh what to do with him. The older uncle’s dilemma: if he allows his children to play with Gao Jun, who is HIV-positive, they will be ostracized by terrified neighbors. The younger uncle’s dilemma: so long as Gao Jun remains in the house, the young man may not be able to find a wife.

Gao Jun is one of just a handful of children we come to know in this film: Nan Nan, who after her parents’ death, was shunned by relatives and left to live without adult care with “Little Flower,” her teenage sister; and the Huang siblings, who vividly describe their ostracism at school. The suffering of these orphans is all the more devastating for being largely unnecessary, the function of misinformation about the nature of the disease.

Yet the film is more than a mere catalogue of woes. Nan Nan reveals her impish humor and joy; the Huang children resolve to become educated and outstrip those who shun them; and Gao Jun, in the closing scenes, demonstrates his ferocious determination to live.