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Monday, June 12, 2017

'Three Sisters' DVD: Fascinating Portrait of Life in Rural China


Icarus Films chooses wisely regarding selecting the 2012 Chinese film "Three Sisters" for the return to its roots of distributing "innovative and provocative" documentaries after releasing several equally stimulating fictional foreign films, such as the Unreal TV reviewed pitch black "Heathers" style "Alena." "Sisters" hits real and virtual store shelves on June 13, 2017. One of many terrific things about this movie is that it achieves the documentary ideal of equally entertaining and educating the audience.

The nine major film festival awards, including several "Best Film" wins, reflect the compelling nature of director Wang Bing turning his camera on the titular siblings and allowing the audience to watch them surprisingly happily go about their impoverished daily lives sans narration and talking heads. Additional praise comes in the form of "Sisters" being a New York Times Critics' Pick.

Ten year-old YingYing is the surrogate mother to 6 year-old Zhenzhen, and the baby in every sense 4 year-old Fenfen. The actual mother is completely out of the picture, and Dad is in the city trying to earn money. A nearby aunt provides some support.

Watching these girls living alone on an isolated farm in 19th century conditions as if doing so if normal is more fascinating than anything from Hollywood in the past several years. One scene in which uncomplaining children collect dung in baskets with their bare hands makes you want to rip the video game console out of the hands of every spoiled brat in the Western world who refuses to clean his or her room and drag that ungrateful cur out to live in the garden shed for a weekend.

The roughly 2:30 run time and the 2.5 years of filming in "Sisters" provide a great deal of ground to cover. It starts well with an opening scene that perfectly introduces the concept of the documentary in a relatable manner. YingYing is getting everyone ready in the morning; Zhenzhen is picking on Fenfen. That meanness prompts Fenfen to cry, which requires that YingYing scold one sister and comfort the other.

Another relatable segment has YingYing have a schoolyard conflict and attend a typical Chinese-style class a short while later.

One of the more amusing moments relates to a baby goat misbehaving. Other memorable ones include Dad and his father discuss the former hiring a matchmaker to find him a new wife. Dad stating that he wants any potential mate to fully know what she is getting into contributes a fun "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" element.

A scene in which Dad and the younger children board a bus provides a good sense of the bureaucracy of China; suffice it to say that this event fully illustrates the regimented style of life in that country.

Politics only directly comes into play once. The agenda of a meeting that Dad attends includes discussing the expansion of electric service. The gist is that the government is pursuing what seems to be a standard policy of benefiting the haves at the literal and figurative expenses of the have-nots.

The special feature includes a comprehensive 16-page booklet on both "Sisters" and Bing. The insights in an essay provides a strong "You Are There" sense.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Sisters" is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.