One of the most compelling films that played Telluride this year (and hopefully will be coming soon to a film fest near you) was Blind Mountain, directed by Li Yang, whose 2003 film Blind Shaft won awards at fests from Berlin to Tribeca and points in between. Blind Shaft told the tale of two Chinese illegal coal mine workers who plan an extortion scam to kill a co-worker they claim is a relative and make it look like an accident, getting themselves, as the "family" of the victim, paid off to avoid publicity for the illegal mining operation. In Blind Mountain, which played at Cannes earlier this year before heading to Telluride, Li examines a different marginalized community and illegal activity in China: the selling of young women as wives in remote regions of the country. As in Blind Shaft, Li presents the community to which he turns his lens as a unique social microcosm with its own set of rules and mores.
Nearly thirty years of the one-child policy in China has resulted in countless female fetuses being aborted and female babies abandoned for adoption or even murdered, as couples sought to have the more "desirable" male infants. Now the repercussions of this policy are becoming more clear, as women of marrying age are in short supply, making women a commodity. Blind Mountain tells the tale of Bai Xuemei (Huang Lu), who has traveled to a remote community for a job with a medicine supply company. The recent college graduate has had trouble finding a job and wants desperately to pay off the debt her parents incurred for her education, and to help ensure her younger brother is able to stay in school. She travels to the distant countryside in the company of her boss and his assistant, believing she is there to procure medicinal herbs from remote farms.