Running Time: 59 mins.                        Rating: 3 Stars/5 Stars

MPAA Rating: NR

Director: Joanne Cheng

Genre: Documentary

Country: USA/China

Language: Chinese w/English subtitles and voiceover

Distributor: East-West Corridor Communications

Torture and desire combine in Chinese history with the practice of binding feet.  Considered by some to be erotic, bound feet was another way of instilling patriarchal law of obedience to family first, husband second and children third upon females, long considered to be, at best, second class citizens.

Chinese-born, US-based filmmaker Joanne Cheng traveled far and wide across China from the northern banks of the Yellow River to peasant villages of southwest Yunnan in search of the remaining legacy of feudal China and it’s mistreatment of women through the practice of binding feet.  Raised by her bound-foot grandmother, Ms. Cheng grew up in the throes of the Cultural Revolution that still scars modern China today under the tutelage of a woman whose strength over diversity was passed down the generations.

In their own words a dozen elderly women aged 78 to 106 reveal their haunting memories of a time when parents intentionally deformed their children in pursuit of a 10th Century emperor’s ideal of erotic beauty.  We are given first hand witness to societal mutilation and their hardship survival from feudal China to Japanese Occupation through Communism up to the early years of the 21st Century as China emerges on the world stage.  Alas, the status of women has not really changed during their lifetime.

There are structural problems with the film and digressions that take us away from the stories of these brave women but overall this is an important documentary to be seen.  We do owe a debt of gratitude to the filmmaker for discovering and preserving for posterity the exquisite works of the 90 year-old paper cut folk artist, Yang Huixiu, whose works are shown outside her village for the first time.

If you like this recommendations: Gai Shanxi & Her Sisters, Small Happiness, Raise The Red Lantern