The Children of Huang Shi
Drama / War
The Children of Huang Shi
Drama / War
People thrown into an unexpected and desperate situation discover their capacity for love and responsibility. A young Englishman, George Hogg, comes to lead sixty orphaned boys on a journey of over 500 perilous miles across the snow-bound Liu Pan Shan mountains to safety on the edge of the Mongolian desert. And how, in doing so, he comes to understand the meaning of courage. During his journey, Hogg learns to rely on the support of Chen, the leader of a Chinese communist partisan group who becomes his closest friend. He soon finds himself falling in love with Lee, a recklessly brave Australian nurse whom war has turned into an unsentimental healer on horseback. Along the way Hogg befriends Madame Wang, an aristocratic survivor who has also been displaced by war, who helps the young Englishman, his friends and their sixty war orphans make their way across mountain and desert regions to a place of safety near the western end of the Great Wall of China.
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In 1937, the British reporter George Hogg (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) travels to Shanghai expecting to cover the Japanese invasion of Nanking. However, the British consul does not give a visa to him since the Japanese authorities do not want journalists in the capital. George deals with a Red Cross driver that wants to get married and he assumes his identity to travel to Nanking with two other journalists in his truck.
George witness and photographs an execution of dwellers by the Japanese soldiers but he is captured. When the soldier is ready to behead George with a sword, he is saved by the communist Chinese soldier Chen Hansheng, a.k.a. Jack (Yun-Fat Chow). George is wounded by a shot and Jack brings him to the Red Cross camping where the nurse Lee Pearson (Radha Mitchell) heals him. Jack sends George to an orphanage and he becomes responsible for sixty orphans. George improves their lives and every now and then he sees Jack, who has become his friend, and Lee, for whom he has fallen in love. With the Japanese occupation and the civil war between nationalists and communists, George decides to travel of about 800 km to a distant but safe land through the mountains and desert with the orphans.
"The Children of Huang Shi" is a movie based on a true story about the life of a British journalist that saved sixty orphans during the Japanese occupation of China in 1937. The movie has magnificent cinematography and art direction, and a great cast, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Radha Mitchell, Yun-Fat Chow and Michelle Yeoh. However, the narrative is cold and without emotions, and the only touching moment is in the credits, with the testimony of survivors that will certainly touch the heart of the viewer. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Órfãos da Guerra" ("Orphans of the War")
Heke is a hero
I watched this movie last Saturday, and here are some feelings of mine. "The children of Huangshi" brought me an vivid image of the reality during the pre-WWⅡ. George Hogg, also known as Heke was a courageous, insistent and responsible man. He treated the homeless orphans as ordinary innocent children while the Japanese enemy and the nationalists never showed any mercy to them. Children were victims of the wars. They lost their families, their childhood, and even their courage to live. Wars also raised the hatred in their mind, changing them into devils. In the movie, two echo scenes impressed me a lot： One is the photo of Shikai' family, the other is a photo of a Japanese soldier. Shikai saw his parents and his sister be killed atrociously by Japanese and since then he became dissociable and unreasonable and the only hope to him was the photo. When he got the chance to kill Japanese, he did it decidedly, only to find that a family photo holding in the soldier's hands. Heke tried to release the children's hatred and he wanted them to be normal children. At some aspect, he succeeded, because the children of Huangshi, e.g. Laosi, found his way back to be a happy child under Heke's education; however, the damage of the war was too huge to be cured. Most of the children were saved but not what they were used to be any more. Anyway, Heke is a great man. Although he is a foreigner, he is our national hero forever.
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A Nearly Impossible Story to Tell or Believe: True Heroism
THE CHILDREN OF HUANG SHI is a long (greater than two hours) epic tale that happens to be a true story of an extraordinary hero's life and gift to humanity during World War II. If as a film the telling of this story is a bit shaky in spots, it is probably due to the episodic series of events that happened very quickly and under existing conditions of profound stress. Yet despite the occasional misfires in production this remains a bit of history we all should know.
George Hogg (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a journalist assigned to Shanghai in 1937 and with his colleagues he plans to explore the extent of the invasion of China by the Japanese. Under the guise of Red Cross workers his small band manages to enter Nanjing where now alone due to the loss of his friends to battle he observes and photographs the atrocities of mass murders of the people of Nanjing. He is captured by the Japanese, tortured when his confiscated camera reveals his terrifying photographs, and it is only by acts of fortune and the aid of a Chinese Nationalist Chen Hansheng (Chow Yun-Fat) that he escapes. Hogg probes the Chinese countryside for further evidences of the evil of the Japanese invasion, and he finds a village of children (adults are all absent) and realizes that he is in an orphanage without a leader. At first reluctant to assume the role of guardian of these impoverished and filthy frightened children, he soon accepts his responsibility and is challenged by an Australian nurse Lee Pearson (Radha Mitchell) to become not only the caretaker but also the father/teacher/provider/role model these children so desperately need.
Seeing the advancing of the Japanese, Hogg decides to take his wards 700 mile away to a small village by the Gobi desert reachable only by the infamous Silk Road. It is this journey and the way both the children and Hogg are affected by the challenge that absorb the greater part of the film. Observing the transformation of George Hogg's view of the world is made credible by Jonathan Rhys Meyers' performance. The cast of children often steals the limelight, but with supporting cast members such as Chow Yun-Fat, Radha Mitchell and Michelle Yeoh as an opium merchant the story never lacks color and character. The look of the film is dark, but the message of this story is full of light. Here is a bit of Chinese history we should all know! Grady Harp