Meaning "Beautiful mountains; beautiful maidens" in Tibetan, Kekexili is the relentless, harsh mountainous plateau in China's interior west just at the border of Tibet. Together with the splendorous scenery comes ferocious snowstorms and treacherous quicksand. It's these forces of nature that eventually brought peril to a troop of voluntary mountain patroller in the pursuit of poachers of the near-extinct Tibetan antelopes during the mid 90s.
The story of the voluntary mountain patrol is told through a Beijing report who accompanied them through a 10-day quest to track down a band of poachers who kidnapped and murdered one of their men. Led by indefatigable leader Ritai, these volunteers from all walks of life shared a common passion, there fervent love of the lordly Tibetan antelopes and hence their furious hatred of the ruthless poachers. The intensity of this passion is brought home to the audience when they witness a scene of a mountain plain littered by hundreds of carcasses of skinned antelopes in the middle of being picked clean by carrion crows, and later reinforced by a similar scene, with the skin of these antelopes spread out to dry, some with crimson bullet holes.
Filmed as a semi-documentary, Kekexili does not portray the patrollers as one-dimensional heroes as some Hollywood flicks might have done. We see them, during their red-hot pursuit, rough-handling a minor offender caught with antelope hair instead of cotton padding his coat and a couple of worm catchers who happened to have witnessed the poacher passing by. But these are minor, as we gradually come to understand that desperate for financial resources, as they were only semi-official and not paid by the provincial government, the mountain patrol resorted to selling some of the pelts they confiscated from the poachers. But the lasting impression left with us of the mountain patrol would be their humanity, their simple zest for life, their comradeship, their self-sacrificing spirit and their absolute dedication to doing what they believe in.
Kekexili is a deeply moving account of a true story crying out to be told, and has won awards in Tokyo and Taiwan. It deserves to be seen by the rest of the world.
* * *
After the first screening of Kekexili in the Hong Kong International Film Festival (22 March to 6 April 2005), young, handsome director Lu Chuan answered questions from the audience in Putonghua and respectably fluent English.
He explained that he was moved to making this film after reading the report of the Beijing photojournalist Ga Yu. The film took two years in preparation before filming, and was shot at the exact locations of the actual events. He said that in filming the story of the mountain patrol, he was not trying to provide an answer to what fuelled their devotion, but just to reflect what actually happened. On the minor questions, he explained that the five hundred odd carcasses in the film were not from killing antelopes (yes, that was the question!), but were actually from mountain goats that was the natives' normal food. And yes, he himself did try eating raw meat, as the reporter did in the movie, when offered a leg just cut from a rabbit freshly shot..
Breaking of the story by the Beijing reporter brought sensational worldwide reaction. In response, the government took strong measures and formed an official force to stamp out poaching of the antelopes. The voluntary mountain patrol, having thus achieved its goal, was disbanded. The population of the Tibetan antelope has since increased.
38 out of 40 found this helpful