Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl

Critics Consensus

A superb first outing from debuting director Joan Chen, Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl uses one person's grueling ordeal to probe a dark chapter in Chinese history.



Total Count: 24


Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,313
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Movie Info

Actress Joan Chen makes her directorial debut with this bleak tale, adapted from the award-winning novella "Tian Yu" by Shanghai writer Yan Geling, about the loss of innocence during Mao Zedong's brutal Cultural Revolution. Precocious Wen Xiu (16-year-old Lu Lu), playfully called Xiu Xiu by her friends, finds herself one of millions of Chinese teenagers sent to the hinterlands to receive specialized training during the early 1970s. She is taken from her loving family in Chengdu to the Tibetan steppes, where she is apprenticed to Lao Jin (Lopsang), a solitary master horseman whose legendary status stems partly from his prowess on the range and partly from an embarrassing secret resulting from a battle injury. Though life is hard on the high grasslands, the sheer physical beauty of the landscape, coupled with Xiu Xiu's youthful vibrancy, reinvigorate the quiet horseman. He soon falls for the young girl, although, thanks to his wound, he will never be able to consummate his love. Meanwhile, Xiu Xiu longs to return to her family in Sichuan. Her growing desperation, coupled with her own naivete, leave her vulnerable to the opportunistic scheming of a traveling peddler, who takes her virginity while promising her quick passage back home. Soon lecherous bureaucrats and others venture out to Xiu Xiu's remote yurt with the promise of free sex. The young girl willingly prostitutes herself, believing that it is the only way to see her beloved family again, while Lao Jin suffers silently, watching his love defile herself. Only after a medical emergency does Xiu Xiu realize how callously she has been used and cast aside. Joan Chen's dark work fits in a subgenre of Chinese art and cinema that explores the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, whose most famous examples include Tian Zhuangzhuang's Blue Kite (1993) and Zhang Yimou's To Live (1993). Though this film was screened in the 1998 Berlin Film Festival, it was banned in China for sexual and political content.


Lu Lu
as Xiu Xiu
as Lao Jin
Zheng Qian
as Li Chaunbei
Gao Jie
as Mother
Wenqiang Wang
as Headquarters Chief
Jiangchi Min
as Peddler
Qin Lao
as Motorcycle Man
Fan Huang
as Three Toes
Cao Jiang
as Three Toes
Xuelan Cao
as Honey Dealer
Wang Luoyong
as Narrator
Lu Yue
as Father
Qiao Qian
as Chen Li
Gao Qiang
as Peddler
Li Zhizhen
as Headquarters Chief
Qin Wenyuan
as Motorcycle Man
Cao Jiong
as Three Toes
Jiang Cheng
as Rider A
as Hooligan
Zhang Jia Kun
as Accountant Cao
Li Shijin
as Jeep Driver
Jia Dong
as Yak Herder A
Wang Yue
as Yak Herder B
Cao Xuelan
as Honey Seller
Tan Xiaoying
as Tractor Man
Zhong Lu
as Belt Man
Hu Wenqi
as Janitor
Li Yayu
as Nurse A
Du Min
as Nurse B
Jia Dashui
as Patient A
Chen Yu
as Patient B
Wang Luoyang
as Narrator
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Critic Reviews for Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (23) | Rotten (1)

Audience Reviews for Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl

  • Mar 08, 2009
    A politically charged and highly metaphorical/symbolic piece of work. Placed slightly above the subtext is a simple yet charming story of a girl living in isolation with an older man. If she is ever to see the city again Xiu Xiu is convinced she must perform sexual favours on the wealthy elite. It's a very tragic story and one where even the protagonist begins to lose sight of her goals. Lopsang gives a wonderful and genuine performance. Towards the end the film starts to become repetitive and too preachy. Some wonderful photography makes this a must see just to absorb the epic environments.
    Luke B Super Reviewer

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