China’s last semi-nomads live in the South-Western province of Guangxi: they are part of the Yao ethnical group who, following a thousand year old tradition, select a new temporary home every two or three generations, usually distancing themselves from their previous temp-home by several hundreds of kilometres. In this film, we follow the twenty-three families strong Guoshan tribe, a sub-group of Yaos, who during the late 1990’s still lived off hunting animals and collecting fruits and roots. Not owning any land, this tribe managed to survive, if scarcely, in remote mountain areas of this province without the help of anybody.
It was in the early days of the year 2000 when the leaders of the village down in the valley decided to help the tribe, and purchased a substantial piece of land for them to build their own permanent village, as well as to grow rice and vegetables to enable them to sustain their living. Zhao Wenming, the tribe’s leader as well as thirty members decide to precede the whole tribe’s move: the aim is to build the houses of the new village and to learn cultivating rice so as to allow them to become independent from public support. Although they had a strong sense of community they had been used to operate individually when it came to survival. In this instance, as they learn to become farmers, it has been decided between them to operate under a collective scheme, just as in the early days of China’s communist revolution.
This way of operating had been long abounded by the majority of China’s farmers since the reforms of the 1980’s. Yet, in this case, it was felt this was the most appropriate method of sharing both work and revenue. However, for our tribe, this first experience of collective work creates a number of conflicts among the group, to the point that people start asking themselves for how long this can continue before the tribe breaks up, and they go back to individual forms of work. This film appears to be a perfect illustration, in a short form, during a few months only, of what has happened in the whole country during half a century: Chinese farmers are thrown into collectivism until, with the economic reforms of the 1980’s, they return to individual forms of labour: the stage is set for the deepest social and economic transformations as we have witnessed them in China’s recent years.
Available languages : English, French