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From Jiabian Gou to Mingshui River

Hu Jie

Release year: 2021

Run time: 139 mins

Film type: Documentary


This film narrates the tragic events that unfolded at Jiabian Gou Farm from 1958 to December 1960, resulting in the deaths of over two thousand individuals due to exhaustion and starvation. Originally a labor reform farm housing prisoners in Jiuquan City, Gansu Province, Jiabian Gou Farm was transformed in 1958 into a facility for re-educating labor inmates. It also took in over three thousand individuals labeled as rightists from Gansu, including university professors, county-level officials, military officers, professionals from various industries, and teachers from different schools. Amid the political terror of the Great Leap Forward, extravagant claims flourished, and an atmosphere of self-preservation and selective reporting of positive news prevailed. This environment led to instances of cannibalism being overlooked, even as people continued to starve to death.


Director biography

Hu Jie is an independent historian, artist, and filmmaker. Born in Jinan, Shandong in 1958, he graduated from the Art College of the People’s Liberation Army. He works in oils and woodcuts from his lakeside studio in Nanjing. His films are among the most important documents of China’s unacknowledged “unoffcial history”, and include Looking for Lin Zhao’s Soul (2005), about a martyr-poet critic of Mao; and Though I Am Gone (2007), about an elite Beijing girls’ high school whose students murdered their headmaster at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.

Director's statement

This film only managed to interview a few survivors, which can only be considered a glimpse into the tragedy of Jiabian Gou. Yet, even such deaths in Jiabian Gou represent just a small fraction of the larger iceberg of suffering in Gansu, and Gansu's tragedy is itself just a small fraction of the nationwide picture. While editing this film, what struck me the most was witnessing the profound numbness of those intellectuals, officials, and soldiers who had experienced life and death on the battlefield. Faced with death, they had become completely desensitized. They had lost all sense of compassion and pity, even resorting to consuming the flesh and organs of their own kind to survive. In the film, only one individual, a Christian named Li Jinghuang, clung to his faith in the face of death, upholding human dignity because human dignity is synonymous with the dignity of God. This might be the faint glimmer throughout the entire film. Additionally, this underscores the notion that memories can be buried and history is challenging to fully reconstruct.