The story takes place towards the end of imperial China in a period of dramatic political and social upheaval. The film is set in the eponymous White Deer Village in Shaanxi Province where the two most important families – Bai and Lu – and their sons have always lived together in peace. But the turmoil leads to a fierce struggle for land ownership. A young woman new to the village soon finds herself caught between the two camps.
Director Wang Quan An uses the story of these two families as a metaphor for the fate of the Chinese people as first Chinese war lords are overrun by Japanese invaders, and then civil war follows hot on the heels of the Second World War.
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