The Children of Huang Shi
: 黄石的孩子; working title
: The Bitter Sea
, also known as Escape from Huang Shi
and Children of the Silk Road
) is a 2008 film
is a young British journalist, who comes from St. George's School, Harpenden
. In 1938, during the Japanese occupation of China
, he sneaks into China by pretending to be a Red Cross aid worker and photographs Japanese atrocities. The Japanese discover this and decide to kill him, but Hogg is saved by Chen Hansheng (Chow Yun-Fat
), a Chinese communist resistance fighter. While in the company of communists Hogg sees from a hidden position the execution by the Japanese of two of his colleagues. Shocked by this he exposes himself. In a gun fight that follows Hogg is wounded. To make himself useful while recovering he is sent to an orphanage with 60 boys in Huangshi
to help Lee Pearson (Radha Mitchell
), the American nurse who runs it. Soon after arrival the boys savagely attack him with sticks; he is saved by Lee, who threatens the boys with leaving.
Instructed to do so by Lee, Hoggs helps to overcome the boys' shyness to be treated nakedly against lice by allowing Lee to demonstrate the treatment on him. Lee leaves for two months, and Hoggs reluctantly stays to avoid that the boys are abandoned by everybody. Hoggs gains the boys' respect by repairing the lighting, being their teacher, etc.
Fleeing from the nationalists who want to make the boys soldiers fighting with them against the Japanese, they make a three-month journey across the snow-bound Liu Pan Shan mountains to safety on the edge of the Mongolian desert, the first 900 km on foot. To their relief, for the last part of the journey they are supplied with four trucks.
At the destination they are supplied with a building that they turn into a new orphanage. In 1945 Hogg dies of tetanus.
The film features the Rape of Nanking and the Sankō Sakusen, and ends with a few brief interview snippets with real surviving orphans.
The film received negative to mixed reviews from Western critics. As of June 25
, 2008, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes
reported that 23% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 48 reviews. Metacritic
reported the film had an average score of 51 out of 100, based on 21 reviews.
The film has been criticized for ignoring the role of Rewi Alley, which is called a blatant misrepresentation.
Box office performance
As of August 3
, 2008, it has grossed around $4.4 million worldwide, including $1.6 million in China
and $832,000 in the US.