Film Archive

A Folk Troupe

Documentary Film
62 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Gang Zhao, Cherelle Zheng
Gang Zhao
Qian Ge, Deng Gang
Luo Quan
Lin Yan
Liu Jian
It’s not exactly a life of ease for the travelling showmen. A theatre company of eleven move into a provisional domicile in a garage-like hall right next to a large construction site on the outskirts of Chengdu, a business centre in the southwest of China. Here a special tradition of the Beijing Opera, the Sichuan Opera, has developed over the years. The actors perform a different play every day. From childhood on, they have learned the secrets of the artfully stilted songs and the sophisticated choreographies of changing the elaborate masks for the three- to four-hour performances. Century-old tales are repeated again and again. But life on the road is far from romantic. They are stuck in Chengdu because they have no money for travelling on; bureaucrats are unwilling to issue permissions, the company is caught in internal disputes, and the mood is tense. The audience on their simple wooden chairs are worn-down figures whose furrowed faces indicate a life of deprivation. The contrast to the colourful productions on stage, whose titles, like “In the Land of Plenty”, hold magnificent promises, couldn’t be bigger. The audience may just about be able to afford this kind of travelling opera, but it’s an unmistakeable swan song. Another piece of cultural history about to get lost …

Cornelia Klauß

Prize of the Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique 2013