Lu Chuan’s Environmentalist Film

Lu Chuan’s Environmentalist Film

Static Mass Rating: 5/5

Release Date: September 26th 2004
Certificate: 15
Running Time: 85 minutes
Language: Mandarin and Tibetan with English subtitles

Director: Lu Chuan
Cast: Duo Bujie, Zhang Lei, Qi Liang, Zhao Xueying and Ma Zhanlin

Mountain Patrol begins quietly at dawn with the murder of one of the patrol men who protect the area’s antelopes from poachers. Ga Yu, a Beijing journalist, arrives to investigate the story. Though at first he is met with scepticism by the leader of the mountain patrol, he is welcomed into their group to tell the story of what has been going on there.

Ri Tai has been trailing poachers for years but so far has only been able to catch the small-time workers who shoot and skin the animals. What he really wants is to catch the big bosses and those who kidnap and kill his men.

The overall feeling while watching Mountain Patrol was that it was beautifully photographed with a lot of detail, attention and time spent on it. There are credible performances, and also a great love and respect for the story being told. In fact, the elderly man who plays one of the antelope skinners in the film and is captured by Ri Tai, was a real poacher and his story did not exist in the original screenplay until after Lu Chuan had met him. The director was inspired to create the part especially for him. The performance is so natural, heartfelt and amusing in all the right places that it contributes greatly in creating such a powerful film. The scenes where he must make his way through the wilderness through the blinding blizzards without food, shelter, transport or water makes a stark contrast to the misery and despair we feel with our long waits and squashed journeys on the Piccadilly line during rush hour – you realise that life in the west is a completely different world and that there are people facing far worse in more severe conditions.

As Ga Yu witnesses all of these events and as it affects him, we too as an audience see and feel what he is experiencing and that is probably the most important thing that Lu Chuan has achieved here as a filmmaker. He has managed to take us on a journey along with this character and to show us something that is rarely ever seen. He doesn’t paint a story in mere black and white where good is pitched against bad, but shows that sometimes these lines become very blurred; even though something is wrong, people can do it for the right reasons despite it going against the very thing they are fighting for.

Filmed over 5 months on location close to Tibet, director Lu Chuan described the environment as “rough and cold!” Set against the sweeping wilderness, the film is visually stunning, but it’s not just eye candy, there’s a very strong story being told here.

Mountain Patrol is not only a true story, but also an important one that needed to be told. Ri Tai’s killers were never found, and that’s a frequently occurring fact where such stories are concerned. There were literally 1000’s of poachers working these areas at the time, nameless and faceless and who were not at all professional killers but merely local people making a living. It is also worth noting that after the events in the film took place (between 1993 to 1996), the area was declared a protected nature reserve. The killing of antelope was banned and enforced more strongly and within years their numbers began to increase once again.

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