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Movie Depicts Ethnic Chinese in a Changing World

Many Naxi ethnic people, such as scholar He Yunshan and his family, are ambivalent about the influx of tourists from across the country and around the globe to their home city of Lijiang, in southwest China's Yunnan Province.


The arrival of more and more visitors has brought about an economic boom in this remote area in recent years.


As a result, some local people, especially the young Naxis, are becoming more interested in attitudes, values and lifestyles from other parts of the world, while ignoring and even abandoning their own ethnic cultural traditions.


One critic, who asked not to be named, said the Dongba culture is being transformed into something fashionable, "with modified sacrificial rituals, flashy clothing and tapestries and gawky vaudeville shows available at tourist resorts."



"Behind the booming cultural facade are hedonism, commercialism and consumerism brought about by creeping globalization," the critic said.


He Yunshan and his two daughters, each in their own way, are making efforts to help preserve and protect their time-honored Dongba cultural heritage.


Their stories are vividly told in a new feature film entitled "A Dumb Girl in the Snow-capped Mountain" (Da dongba de nu'er).


The film stars young actresses Yang Mei as fun but dumb He Xi, and Cui Bo as her wise elder sister He Na, and Yang Shulin as the dedicated but stubborn scholar He Yunshan.


It is jointly produced by the Changchun Film Studios Corporation and the Film Channel Production Centre of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.


The film, its on-location shooting carried out in Lijiang last year, is reportedly the first colour feature film ever made depicting the life of the Naxi ethnic minority and the unique culture.


With a population of 300,000, the Naxi ethnic people reside in two UNESCO World Heritage sites the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Province's protected areas and the ancient town of Lijiang.


In 2003, a hieroglyphic Dongba manuscript belonging to the Naxi ethnic people was recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a Memory of the World.


A "Dongba" is a spiritual leader of the Naxi ethnic minority whose responsibilities include healing the sick, consoling the heart-broken, hosting the sacrificial rituals, and teaching a limited number of learners the techniques of reading and writing Dongba hieroglyphic manuscripts.


He Guohua, 70, a real-life Dongba master from Lijiang, makes a cameo appearance in the new film as He Xi's grandfather.


The film, centred around He's odyssey to becoming a dancer, also touches upon the mysterious Dongba rituals and dances.


Accompanied with a soundtrack featuring the melodic Naxi ancient music, the film also features breath-taking historical and cultural heritage sites like the awe-inspiring Jade Dragon Snowy Mountain, the closest glacier to the equator in the Northern Hemisphere.


The camera work by veteran cinematographer Zhao Bo adds to the visual appeal of the film about the ethnic culture.


The romantic tango between He and a young Austrian anthropologist adds another dimension to the film.


However, Lijiang's Deputy Mayor Yang Yiben said during the film's Beijing premiere: "What you can learn about the Naxi people and the Dongba culture through the film is just like a small drop in a huge ocean."


"So, you have to be there to get the real picture of it," she added.


The film won a Best Costume Design award at the first Cyprus International Film Festival held in March.


In October, the film will be judged at the Montreal International Film Festival in August and the Vienna International Film Festival, said director Han Zhijun.


The film is now showing in movie theatres in China and will be released in Greece and Cyprus in September, according to Han.


(China Daily June 12, 2006)


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Naxi Faithful Launch Culture Crusade
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