Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
The "Long March" was an event long sanctified in Chinese Communist memory. In the mid 1930s, the leadership and army of the Communist party was under a dual threat from the Kuomintang forces of Chiang Kai-Shek and from the Japanese (who were a much more serious threat). They decided to move to a safe haven in the mountainous regions in the western part of China near Tibet. Many hardships accompanied this journey of over a thousand miles, most of it traveled on foot, but the army also won the admiration of peasants along the way for its practice of trying to pay in cash or barter for any supplies it needed, and a large number of recruits were won to the Communist cause in this way. Mati Sheng Sui offers a somewhat revisionist view of this bit of history, and suggests that everything was not entirely peachy-keen within the Party at that time. The story concerns a regiment of women which has been sent off on a mission by a dissenting faction of the leadership without supplies, support, or a clear objective. Though they are brave and their spirits are upheld by party loyalty, everything they are doing is basically futile. This film was understandably upsetting to Chinese authorities, who did not permit it to be screened overseas even at festivals until late in 1993, four years after its brief release in China.