(aka 'Children of the Silk Road' or 'Escape from Huang Shi')

Directed by Roger Spottiswoode
Australia China Germany 2008

 

Inspired by true events, the film tells the story of George Hogg, a young British journalist, who rescues 60 orphaned children. He leads them on a treacherous 1000-mile journey along the Silk Road, through the Liu Pan Shan Mountains into the spectacular Gobi desert. Over the course of the journey he falls in love with a determined, self-trained nurse, and makes a friend in Chen, the leader of a Chinese partisan group. Madame Wang, a surviving aristocrat, assists in guiding them to safety in a remote village near the western end of China's Great Wall.

***

I have no idea who brought basketball to China.

But I know who brought the game to "The Children of Huang Shi," at least according to the film of that title.

It was George Hogg, whose last name was a source of amusement for the children for whom its Chinese translation had barnyard implications.

Hogg was a 23-year-old Englishman who barely escaped the rape of Nanking by the Japanese, and who took refuge in a Chinese orphanage filled with youngsters whose parents were killed in the invasion - many before their own eyes. The children are a traumatized and unkempt bunch, governing themselves in unruly, "Lord of the Flies" fashion.

But teaching orphans how to throw a ball through a hoop was the least of what Hogg did for them. He fed them, clothed them and taught them discipline. And then, to keep them out of harm's way, he led them on a 700-mile journey across the mountains, in winter, to an isolated region.

Excerpt from Duane Dudek's review at the Journal Sentinel located HERE.

Posters

Theatrical Release: February 8th, 2008 - European Film Market

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DVD Review: Sony - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution Sony Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 2:05:00 
Video 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.35 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 5.1) 
Subtitles English, Spanish, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Sony

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

•  The Challenge of Hunag Shi (11:48)
• Trailers

DVD Release Date: January 20th, 200
9
Keep Case
Chapters: 28

 

Comments:

The Children of Huang Shi is a film that many critics showed indifferent but a lot of casual movie-goers adored (example Ebert gave it 2.5/4 but his readers escalated that to 3.5/4!). I probably fall somewhere in between - interesting and very enjoyable but possibly less impacting than I began to expect as the film rolled along. It does hit home and the production has impressive performances, cinematography and direction. I expect most people would rate this film very positively and the children-angle is never cloyingly exploited. 

The Sony DVD transfer is dual-layered, anamorphic and progressive. Aside from the usual SD weaknesses - noise, less vibrant colors and some softness - the image is totally acceptable for standard viewing. It is certainly not stellar but presents The Children of Huang Shi well enough to appreciate the film. I have a feeling though that this could look exceptional or at least much stronger with another transfer as some of the geographic visuals are quite lush and epic-like. I don't see excessive digital manipulation and the image is expectantly, very clean.   

The audio is competent if unremarkable and the DVD sports optional subtitles in an awkwardly large yellow font. 

Aside from a stack of Sony advert trailers (and one for the film) the only supplement is an 11 minute featurette - entitled The Challenge of Hunag Shi.  Director Roger Spottiswoode gives input on the impetus and evolution of the production with some behind the scenes clips.

I certainly don't want to dissuade anyone from seeing this - it is quite an excellent , touching and historical drama - in many senses. The DVD is pricey in my opinion but definitely worth a rent one evening. 

Gary W. Tooze

 



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Distribution Sony Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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