“Three sisters, aged four, six, and ten, live like orphans in Yunnan province, in the village of Xiyangtang (elevation: 3,500 feet; population: 80 families). Their mother has abandoned the family. The father, Sun Shunbao, has gone to the city to work. So they fend for themselves, cadging meals from their aunt, who tolerates them so long as they work. The father returns, but only briefly, bringing new shoes but taking the two younger sisters to live with him in the city and leaving the eldest, Yingying, to stay with her grandfather, Sun Xinliang. He tends his sheep, and she is left alone, and lonely. She even turns a sheet of cellophane into a toy. She asks a friend, “Can I come to your house to play?” He responds, “Why?” The grandfather takes her to an autumn feast in a nearby village. Afterward there is a town meeting. The mayor tells the assembled villagers that the government is intent on collecting the health insurance fees they can’t afford to pay. The people also complain about the government’s “rural revival” program: “They’re building these fancy new houses, and meanwhile the villagers can hardly afford to eat.”
Some months later, the father returns again, this time to stay. He was unable to support his family in the city. The family is reunited, except for the mother. In her place, Sun brings a babysitter” and her daughter Yanyan. The final words belong to Zhenzhen, the six year-old sister: “Kids who have a mommy are the happiest in the world.” Then the final shot: a long tracking shot, without words, follows the babysitter and her daughter as they walk through the snow-pocketed mountains. There is no title at the end to
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