From three-time Academy Award nominated director Zhang Yimou comes a moving story of one man's journey across China's heartland. For the first time in many years, Takata Gou-ichi (Takakura Ken) takes the bullet train to Tokyo from the quiet fisherman's village where he lives on the northwest coast of Japan. His daughter-in-law, Rie (Terajima Shinobu) had telephoned to tell him that his son, Ken-ichi (Nakai Kiichi) is seriously ill, and asking for his father.
But when he arrives in the city, Takata finds that Rie was not entirely truthful: Ken-ichi has been hospitalized, but after years of painful estrangement, he still refuses to see Takata. Crushed, the old man quietly slips out of the hospital, but not before Rie gives him a videotape to watch. What Takata sees on the tape, Rie hopes, will help him get to know his son again.
Takata plays the tape and learns that Ken-ichi is studying a form of Chinese exorcising drama that dates back more than a thousand years. Ken-ichi had traveled all the way to Yunnan Province in Southern China to see the famous actor LI Jiamin perform, but the actor was ill and unable to sing. Li promised to sing the legendary song 'Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles' from the literary classic, 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms' for Ken-ichi if he returns to Yunnan the following year.
Hoping to bridge the gap between himself and his son, Takata decides to find Li Jiamin and videotape his performance for the dying Ken-ichi. As the old man begins an odyssey into the heart of China, he encounters a number of strangers who colour his journey — from well-meaning translators who guide him through China's idiosyncrasies, to prison wardens anxious to promote Chinese culture abroad, to a young runaway with a complicated father-son relationship of his own.
What Takata discovers on his journey is kindness... and a sense of family he thought he had lost long ago.
Trailer (click 'Media', then 'Trailer'):
Macromedia Flash, Various
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