Political Film Society - The Children of Huang Shi


PFS Film Review
The Children of Huang Shi


 

The Children of Huang ShiA biopic about George Hogg (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers), The Children of Huang Shi begins as he enters Shanghai as a journalist, camera in hand. British, he is witness to the “Rape of Nanjing” of 1937, capturing the arbitrary massacres of civilians on film. However, Japanese soldiers spot him, discover that he has photographic evidence of an atrocity, and nearly execute him when a Communist resistance group alights on the scene to shoot his captors. The leader of the unit, Chen Hansheng (played by Chow Yun Fat), takes Hogg to a makeshift hospital presided over by American woman, Lee Pearson (played by Radha Mitchell), who is acting as a nurse. Soon, Hogg is escorted to Huang Shi, where at an orphanage some distance from the battle zone he is in charge of young boys ranging in age from toddlers to teens with hardly any knowledge of the Chinese spoken language. The oldest organizes some of his compatriots to beat Hogg when the Chinese cook of the establishment arrives to stop the cruelty. Hogg then has to find a reason to make himself indispensible when Mitchell appears to tell him that she had him sent there and will return two months hence. Hogg then goes to the open market nearby to bargain with the proprietor of a store, Mrs. Wang (played by Michelle Yeoh), for vegetable seeds in exchange for a promise to surrender a portion of the crop. Fortunately, at least one of the boys is a farmer’s son, and the plants flourish. Meanwhile, Hogg has set up a school, appointing Ching (played by Naihan Yang) as the teacher after first teaching him some English. Inevitably, the battle zone expands, so Hogg decides to take his students and some belongings from the orphanage 700 miles toward the Gobi Desert to safety, a dangerous trek through snow country. Without giving away the ending, which is still a good fifteen minutes more in the film, several octogenarian survivors of the orphanage eulogize Hogg as final credits roll. Directed by Roger Spottiswoode, who received a Political Film Society nomination for Air America (1990), the cinematography of Gansu alone is worth the price of admission. MH

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