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Soul Mountain

Mao Chenyu

Release year: 2003

Run time: 76 mins

Film type: Documentary


In the Shennongjia Forest Area located along the Yangtze River Basin, due to its remote geographical location, the rugged mountains and peaks have hindered the local mountain people from establishing strong connections with the outside world. To this day, this place preserves the epic creation myth known as "Dark Legend." Deep within the mountains, a grandfather lives a simple life alongside his son, daughter-in-law, and grandson. The son, Yang Fuxin, is a Taoist priest who specializes in guiding the souls of the deceased to the afterlife. The grandfather's deteriorating health, concerns about sustenance, and the estrangement from his daughter-in-law make him feel out of place. He has no refuge in any so-called "sacred mountain" and merely hopes for enough to eat. People continue to pass away, both young and old, and the Taoist son guides their souls one by one to what he believes is the so-called heaven. Meanwhile, the grandfather gazes at the sacred mountain, holding onto an immature pomegranate in his hand...


Director biography

Mao Chenyu, born in 1976, hails from Songyuan Village, Xinqiang Town, Yueyang City, Hunan Province. After completing his studies in Inorganic Non-metallic Materials at the School of Materials Science and Engineering, Tongji University in 2000, he began to focus on image-based practices. "Rice Cinema" is a series of visual experiments initiated by Mao Chenyu in 2003. Primarily employing ethnographic approaches within the realm of cinema, his works delve into obscured individual experiences, rural narratives and languages, ethnic differences, land politics, and other related topics. Mao's filming predominantly takes place within the vast region surrounding Yueyang in Hunan, extending to Shennongjia in Hubei, and Northeastern Guizhou, which encompasses the Dongting Lake area. Through capturing rice cultivation and exploring the cultural, agricultural, and social aspects intertwined with rice, he presents the will to exist and the spiritual lineage associated with it. Since 2013, the artist has expanded his language structures through exhibitions, lectures, interdisciplinary collaborations, and other mediums of expression.