The Miao tribe has lived in the forests of south-eastern China for over 2,000 years. The tribe members still respect the traditions of their forefathers. When a boy reaches the age of 15, he takes part in an initiation ritual during which his father ceremoniously hands him a rifle. Lala will turn 15 in a months’ time. He lives with his grandmother and has never seen his father. In order to receive his rifle, Lala decides to search for him. Grandmother isn’t much help. All Lala learns from her is that his father was the best hunter and singer in the village and that he has a birthmark on his neck in the shape of a dragon’s claw. With only these vague details to guide him, Lala sets off. He spends some time with a hunter who is apparently descended from illustrious ancestors. But, unlike them, he is a hopeless hunter and so cannot possibly be his father. Lala subsequently moves in with a family of rice farmers. The head of the family turns out to be a marvellous singer but, at a campfire concert one night he notices the man – who has fathered two daughters – has a second wife. This man is certainly not his father either. After this, Lala lives with a boatman who serenades the spirits of the dead on their final journey. The ageing skipper decides to train Lala as his successor. But then Lala remembers his elderly grandmother and longs to be at home with her again. Is there really no way he can find his father?
by Ning Jingwu
with Wang Jishuai, Shi Mingma, Gun Dangyuan, Gun Maishuai
People's Republic of China 2008
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