Director/Screenwriter: Wang Bing. Producer: K. Lihong, Mao Hui, Philippe Avril, Francisco Villa-Lobos, Sebastien Delloye, Dianba Elbaum. Cinematographer: Lu Sheng. Production Designer: Bao Lige, Xiang Honghui. Editor: Marie-Hélèene Dozo. Cast: Lu Ye, Lian Renjun, Xu Cenzi, Yang Haoyu, Cheng Zhengwu, Jing Niansong.
In his first dramatic feature, director Wang Bing, best-known for his epic documentary WEST OF THE TRACKS (2003), vividly recreates the brutal conditions at the Jiabiangou labor camp in the Gobi Desert, where some 3,000 intellectuals were sent during the Anti-Rightist Campaign beginning in the late 1950s. Digging the eponymous ditch, the prisoners labor at the very edge of human endurance. They seem resigned to death, until a woman appears, searching for her husband and inspires some of them to plot an escape. With its emphasis on sensory details like the incessant, blinding desert sun and the slurping of the thin gruel on which its characters subsist, THE DITCH is an intensely visceral experience about a period of Chinese history still rarely discussed today. – Tom Vick
35mm, color, Putonghua with English subtitles, 109 min.
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