Sunday, June 22, 2008


So strong are the vignettes of small town life in Dam Street that I found myself transported to the India of the 80s. The opening scenes are of a love affair in school that gets a teenaged Xiao Yun pregnant. This is China in the early 1980s.
And the town is conservative. For Xiao Yun and her family the consequences are disastrous. Both she and her boyfriend are expelled from school and their families ostracized. In the scandal that follows, the boyfriend is sent away by his family while Xiao Yun gives birth to a baby that her mother puts up for adoption.

Cut to many years later. Xiao Yun is now a singer and earns her living by working for a local singing troupe. Her mother continues to teach children and Xiao often finds little Xiao Yong, her mother's student spending time at their home. A wonderful bond of friendship affection and trust develops between the two. Xiao Yong lives with his single mother and Xiao Yun's teacher mom goes to meet them in secret. Who really is Xiao Yong? No prizes for guessing that one!

The beauty of Dam Street is its wonderful portrayal of small town China; the people that inhabit these towns, their grim, tough and humdrum existence. And providing a perfect foil to this environment is the gentle and kind affection between a ostracized woman and the small boy.