|February 10, 2007
director Wang Quan'an says his film about Mongolian herders is
for posterity, as economic pressures force them from the
windswept steppes to crowded cities and extinguish their way of
"Tuya's Marriage," in competition
at the Berlin film festival, tells the story of a shepherdess
who is forced to contemplate a marriage she does not want in
order to support herself, her sick husband and two young
The family lives on barren, dusty
plains in China's Inner Mongolia far from any town or village.
The region has preserved a way of life that has not changed for
But the beautiful Tuya's uphill
struggle to herd sheep, cook and fetch water and food for the
animals takes its toll, and when she divorces her husband and
announces she is willing to re-marry, a string of
less-than-desirable suitors show up.
"We wondered whether we should
make a film to record their way of life," Wang told reporters
after a press screening on Saturday. "Perhaps this is the last
glance at the herdspeople of the region," he added, speaking
through an interpreter.
"Ultimately they are going to
disappear into the cities."
One of Tuya's suitors is an old
school friend who has become wealthy in the oil business, and he
takes her ex-husband to a home for invalids in a nearby town.
But the ex-husband cannot adapt to his new surroundings, and
tragedy is only narrowly averted.
Another young friend, Tuya's
neighbor on the steppes, struggles to make enough money to keep
his fickle wife who flits from partner to partner depending on
how rich they are.
Tuya is impressively played by
actress Yu Nan, who said this was the hardest of the films she
had made with Wang.
"It was my first time in Mongolia
and I needed four to five months to get accustomed to life
there," she said of the tough shooting conditions that included
freezing temperatures, and an arid, dusty environment.
"I almost got the impression
while we were shooting that I was turning into Tuya," she added.
Yu had to learn to ride a horse and camel for the part as well
as herd the sheep.
"It may well be that these people
have to move into the towns and cities, and I really appreciated
the chance to make the film."
Bater, Tuya's sick husband, was
played by a real-life herdsman from Inner Mongolia, but
according to production notes for the film, the government
ordered his family to leave the desert-like pastures and he
became a farmer.
Wang said it was important to
make "Tuya's Marriage" not only to show the outside world how a
dwindling number of people in China lived, but also to remind
Chinese audiences about the problems remote parts of their
"These films really do reflect
what is happening in Chinese society at the lowest level," he
said. "It also tells the audience that there is a problem that
needs to be addressed."