Skip to content

The Circle of Life

Hu Jie

Release year: 1996-2007

Run time: 20 mins

Film type: Documentary


Xiaohua grew up in the Shandong countryside. Like most local young women, she met Chunling, a young man from another village, through a matchmaker and chose a good day to get married. After marriage, they live with Chunling's parents. The young couple fall in love with each other and give birth to a baby boy. According to the requirements of the national family planning policy, first-born males in rural areas cannot have further children. But farmers have their own ideas. A family should not only have boys, but also boys and girls. If there are no boys, they will do everything possible to give birth to boys in order to continue the family line. Those who have given birth to a boy want to have another girl. Therefore, the township government sends a family planning fines team, and the villagers played a cat-and-mouse game with the fines team. At the risk of being fined, Xiao Hua becomes pregnant again. When she’s in labor, Chunling inds a midwife. With the help of Chunling, Xiaohua successfully gives birth to a baby girl at home. In order to avoid being arrested, Chunling takes the initiative to pay the 3,000 yuan fine. After that, they couple leave their children with their family and go to work in Beijing together. One translation of the film’s title, "The Circle of Life", not only indicates the couple's persistence in giving birth, but also symbolizes their tenacious vitality.


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.