Yellow Earth

Director: Kaige Chen
Screenwriters: Zhang Ziliang

Institute History

  • 1992 Sundance Film Festival


Winner of the Silver Leopard Award at the Locarno Film Festival, Yellow Earth has a simple visual richness that is often endearing and beautiful. The images captured by first-time feature-film director Chen Kaige and the cinematography of Zhang Yimou are vast and exquisite. Set in an impoverished province on the banks of the Yellow River in 1937, the film is about Gu Qing (Wang Xueyin), a communist soldier who collects folk songs and then rewrites the despairing lyrics to reflect the glories to be found in Chairman Mao’s China. In the process he inspires Cui Qiao (Xue Bai), a young girl about to be married against her will to a detestable man.

Zhang Yimou’s compositions are outstanding, and the film’s images are consistently rich and evocative: the powdery ochre landscapes, the broad and peaceful river, the clear and luminous sky. For thirty-two-year-old Chen Kaige, working out of the small Guangxi Film Studio, this film is a remarkable achievement. He tells the story with great subtlety and delicacy, allowing silences, looks and gestures to convey the feelings of his characters. Yellow Earth is a major film, announcing the arrival of what is called the “Fifth Generation of Chinese Film Directors,” those who have graduated from the Beijing Film Academy. It has proven to be the one film most responsible for the international success of Chinese filmmakers.

— David Alberico

Screening Details


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