"The rustling trees and cackling chickens create a natural soundtrack to this rhythmic, beautifully framed documentary, which doesn't shy away from the harsher aspects of this life, far from the madding crowd." - IDFA
A nuanced study of rural China, this visually stunning piece poetically flows around the daily lives of three generations – their chores, prays and mundane concerns in an isolated mountain village - secluded away from China's monumental transition.
Named after a turtle-shaped rock formation, the eponymous mountain village is where Chinese filmmaker Xiao Xiao was raised. Shifting his gaze to his home village - he shows how the piling mountains, with astonishing beauty and solemnity, tightly binds the villages together and profoundly enfetters their fates. Just as the giant “Turtle Rock” (团鱼岩) situated at the gate of the village, the ancestral mythos witnesses and echoes with the villagers’ present existence, and triggers an open experience of nostalgia.
An 80-years-old grandma still labors hard for the family. She burns incense and prays, day by day, for the fear of upcoming death, and asks her son to come back for the company. After her son returns from outside work, he can only do odd jobs in the woods and becomes increasingly impoverished and anxious. Her grandson, tired of being a migrant worker in the city, returns to the mountains and starts his business of raising chickens, but ends up with a complete defeat and being heavily indebted. Meanwhile, her neighbor uncle Li unwillingly comes back home for his eye being injured in his industrial job, and suddenly loses all source of income.
The mountains tightly bind them together and dictate their fates, just as the giant “Turtle Rock”. It is said that a turtle endeavored to cultivate itself into the heavenly realm, but fell down and being dismembered by the Thunder God, and then transferred into a rock – the village is named after the rock, and also echoes from its heritage.
101 minutes - In Chinese dialect, with English Subtitles