The raw poetic drama of a family waging a battle for survival in the wilderness of Northeast China, where, unemployed, they depend on pouching for their survival, but moreover their wooden hut, with no running water or electricity, stands in the path of construction of the great dam, and there is no force that can withstand the power of the state.
In the snowbound wilderness of the Changbai mountain range, in China's northeastern Heilongjiang Province, we find an unusual family: a hunter, his wife, a vagrant named Xiao Li, two dogs and one cat. They live together in a decrepit house in an abandoned logging camp, miles from the nearest village. During the winter, they feed themselves by hunting and trapping; in the summer, they raise and sell some of their small herd of goats.
A century of intensive logging has deforested the Changbai mountain range and left its inhabitants, who relied on the timber industry for their livelihood, unemployed and destitute. The hunter himself was once employed by the Bureau of Forestry; after he was laid off, he turned to herding and hunting to survive. Xiao Li, reduced to vagrancy after he was laid off from his job, sought refuge with the hunter, who offered him room and board in exchange for tending the goats and doing some odd jobs around the house. So it is that this tranquil valley shows signs of human habitation: the smell of cooking, smoke drifting from a chimney and the mournful echo of Xiao Li's singing.
When the government begins clearing away houses to build a reservoir that will supply drinking water to Harbin, a city of over nine million people, the hunter and his household are asked to move. By wintertime, the house has been half-demolished but the family remains: they brave the heavy snowstorms and await the arrival of spring. Just before Chinese New Year, government inspectors investigating reports of illegal poaching find and confiscate the stores of meat that the family has set aside to last them through the long winter. The hunter flees to avoid capture, his wife returns to her parents' home and Xiao Li is arrested, but manages to escape. When he returns to the mountain, frostbitten and exhausted, he finds himself alone once again, with only his pets and songs to keep him company...
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