It’s an extraordinary opening scene: the view from within a tomb under construction. We see people at work, and others watching—holding mugs of tea, or a child on their lap. Filmmaker Sanshou Hu introduces these people, and himself. In the town where he was born, he and his family are following an age-old tradition by building a tomb for his grandparents.
This carefully composed portrait of a village is mainly built up from several recurring elements. The often wide-framed shots of people at work alternate with idle conversations with the workers covering subjects ranging from the everyday to the highly personal; from memories of Mao to a fantasy about traveling to the moon. In the background we occasionally hear government instructions connected with the outbreak of Covid-19. The filmmaker talks in voiceover about his memories and dreams.
This calm and eloquent portrayal of a China we seldom see is also a meditation on existence itself. The film was made in partnership with the Folk Memory Project, an initiative with the aim of documenting memories of the famine of 1959 to 1961.