Program Detail

Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl

Joan Chen / USA / 1998 / 100 min / Mandarin with English subtitles / Color


An astonishingly confident directorial debut from San Francisco-based actress Joan Chen, Xiu Xiu is a heartbreaking coming-of-age melodrama set during the later stages of the Cultural Revolution. A young girl, Xiu Xiu, is sent to a desolate part of Tibet to learn horse breeding from her trainer, Lao Jin, a serene Tibetan herdsman. Deserted in such a bleak, uncompromising landscape, Xiu Xiu dreams of a better life, but slowly realizes that the authorities have no intention of ever rescuing her. Her dreams shattered, she is coerced into sex by visiting townsmen and their promises of “help.” But no help ever comes, and the silent, love-struck Lao Jin is left as her only hope. Chen’s slow-building moods and self-assured narrative tone recall the emotional power and underlying social critique inherent in mainland China’s Fifth Generation filmmakers, as well as the work of their predecessor Xie Jin (whose 1977 film, Youth, saw Chen in one of her first starring roles). Austere, uncluttered—no unnecessary dramatic pyrotechnics or visual exotica—Xiu Xiu achieves a purity of vision not found in most contemporary cinema. Coaxing gorgeously refined performances out of radiant newcomer Lu Lu and the Tibetan-born Lopsang, Chen weaves a story of love unspoken and love lost, and in so doing introduces an exciting new voice to world cinema.

-Jason Sanders

This special screening will be followed by a live conversation with Joan Chen moderated by award-winning journalist, Emerald Yeh.


  • Director: Joan Chen
  • Executive Producer: Alison LIu, Cecilia Chai Tsuei, Joan Chen
  • Producer: Alice Chan, Joan Chen
  • Cinematographer: Lu Yue
  • Writer: Yan Geling, Joan Chen
  • Editor: Ruby Wang
  • Cast: Lu Lu, Lopsang, Qian Zheng, Qao Jie
  • Sound: Yang Zhanshan, David Parker


March 9, 2012 7:00 pm
Sundance Kabuki Cinemas
Rush Only

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