Aftershock- 240,000 lives lost; One Story

240,000 lives lost in the 1976 Tangsheng earthquake in China. This is one story.


I haven’t reviewed a movie in a long time. Talk about real life getting you down! This is a movie I’d seen once before and just felt compelled to watch it again and review it this time.

During the tragic Tangshan earthquake in 1976, Li Yuanni (Fan Xu) finds her twins, daughter Fang Deng and son Da Feng, buried under a giant slab of concrete. Rescue workers inform Li Yuanni that she has to chose between the twins, because as soon as one child is extracted the other will perish. Terrified Li Yuanni, who already lost her husband in the earthquake, finally choose her son Da Feng. Unknown to her at the time, Fang Deng survived and was adopted by a military couple who were part of the rescue teams.

Years later, the mother Li Yuanni is still haunted by her decision and refuses to leave her home when her now successful businessman son returns to Tangshan. Li Yuanni believes she must stay in the home to guide the spirits of her husband and daughter back home. Meanwhile Fang Deng grows up as Wang Deng (Jingchu Zhang), but still harbors anger and bitterness at her mother’s decisions.

Jingchu Zhang as Fang Deng/Wang Deng
Fan Xu as Li Yuanni
Chen Li as Da Feng
Daoming Chen – foster dad
Jin Chen as foster mom
Guoqiang Zhang as father
Zifeng Zhang as Fang Deng (young)
My Thoughts
Save my son. These are the last words that a daughter remembers and remembers and remembers. This film is different as the focus is not soley on the disaster itself but also the effects on an individual family; the aftershock and how one earthquake can break apart a family. The plot was original in its execution whereby not only did we get to experience the earthquake in its vivid detail but also the rescue attempts as well as the decisions that some families may actually make or have made. The portrayal of the family members was brilliantly well acted and I really looked at this as a historically accurate film in realism as it reflected those times before, during and after the 1976 earthquake as well as China during these years. It also shed a light on family life in China in the 70’s.

We Westerners are only familiar with how bad the Chinese regime was but never take into consideration what family life was like. I am not discounting that there was bad but also the fact that there was good should never be dismissed. I applauded Fang Deng’s adopted family who took in a little girl who definitely had emotional issues under the covers but loved her unconditionally as their own. I remember the conversation that the adopted mother and father had when Deng was going to school and the mother’s fears that in her leaving, she would never come back as she found her real family. But that also showed the loved that she had for her daughter.

Now, contrast that with a mother who believed she caused the death of her daughter and lost her husband. This was a woman who for 32 years refused to be happy; truly. She made every effort to raise her son, now handicapped but she never attempted to do anything for herself out of guilt in leaving that daughter to die.

This was a remarkably well told story. It is funny how you can watch a movie, albeit it sad, over and over again to see new things that you missed before. Amazing movie and not because of the AWESOME special effects; but as a movie which follows the diaspora of a familly affected by the 1976 Tangshan earthquake you can’t help to watch without feeling true empathy towards the main characters and their plight. I know I had tears coming down on more than one occasion. The awards won by this movie were well earned. Awesome story, awesome cast.

Here’s the trailer:

2010 (4th) Asia Pacific Screen Awards – December 2
“Best Feature Film”
“Best Performance by an Actor” (Daoming Chen)
2011 (5th) Asian Film Awards – March 21, 2011
“Best Actress” (Fan Xu)
“Best Visual Effects”
2011 (13th) Udine Far East Film – April 29-May 7, 2011
“Audience Award”

Film is available on Netflix and most other streaming websites.


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