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Barefoot Doctor Sun Lizhe

Xu Tong

Release year: 2017

Run time: 100 min

Film type: Documentary


This documentary film recounts Dr Sun Lizhe's remarkable experience as a barefoot doctor in rural China and offers a glimpse of China's healthcare condition during and shortly after the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Described as a "Chinese Dr Zhivago" in the film, Sun's distinguished life started with his decision to become a "barefoot doctor" when he was an 18 year-old educated youth from Beijing sent down to the countryside. He had since saved numerous lives by performing difficult surgery when emergency situations arose. In villages where medical resources were extremely limited, Sun devoted himself to the healthcare of peasants, performing more than 3000 operations in the cave dwellings of Shaanxi province. In 1974 he was selected by Chairman Mao as one of China's five model "educated youths".


Director biography

Xu Tong was born in 1965 in Beijing, and majored in news photography at the Communications University of China. He describes himself as a vagabond filmmaker, as his filmmaking focuses on those who live on the margins of the society, often outside the law, in northern China. He uses his camera to express sympathy and even empathy with the marginality and defiant nonconformity of many of his subjects.