OLD MEN is an intimate ethnographic portrait of elderly men in China. In 1996, filmmaker Lina Yang, a graduate of the Art Academy of the People's Liberation Army and one of the few independent filmmakers working in China, moved into the Qing Ta district in Beijing where she noticed a fixture of the community - a group that gathered every day at the curbside. Finding a beauty in their appearance, she began to document these retirees, referring to them as Da ye - a Mandarin term of respect and endearment.
The Da ye meet promptly in the mornings to sit in the sun and chat amongst themselves until noon when they would go home for lunch, returning immediately afterwards. At 5 p.m. sharp all returned home to eat dinner and go to sleep. The only apparent variation was a shift to a different place during summer - a place in the shadows of trees. Year after year this routine was followed as if it were their life's work.
Yang spent two years documenting the Da ye. She has created an expressive document about what occurs among men when their life's work has ceased. Although they no longer labor for their nation or for the Communist party they cannot escape the need for a daily pattern. Even a wife's illness isn't enough to keep a husband from his place among his fellows. As with many societies, a man in China is defined by what he does for a living - with that taken away he loses his purpose and identity.
Through the details of their daily routine, we observe the physical and psychological aches that accompany old age, and we witness the solace that can be found in tradition and companionship. Thoughtful and introspective, OLD MEN is a moving meditation on what it means to grow old in today's China.
"Extraordinary! The lessons one may discern from OLD MEN are needed by society and are important to gerontologists who devote their minds and energy to understanding aging. An artistic tour-de-force. Powerful. Poignant. Honest. An outstanding film that should be experienced by different audiences including the children of aging persons, healthcare providers, counselors, spiritual leaders, community members, students, and older persons themselves, whether as... a discussion stimulator for classes exploring the realities of aging, [or] as a training film for volunteers and others who care deeply about the elders within their families and within their communities. OLD MEN is at once a work of art and an ethnographic portrait worthy of close attention - no matter one's country or stage in life."—James T. Sykes, The Gerontologist
Official Selection, 2001 Association for Asian Studies Film Festival (USA)
Award of Excellence, 2000 Yamagata Documentary Film Festival (Japan)
Golden Dove of Peace Prize, 2000 Leipzig Documentary Film Festival (Germany)
SCAM Prize, 2000 Cinema du Reel (France)
2001 Global Visions Festival
"Recommended. The film conveys to the viewer the deep sense of loss felt by most of these men. Their sense of uselessness, and loss of hope, is vividly portrayed. [OLD MEN] is of interest to students of Sociology or Psychology... undergraduate or graduate students of Chinese or East Asian affairs, as well as those studying the problems of the elderly."—MC Journal, the Journal of Academic Media Librarianship