A First Farewell (2018) - full transcript

Isa Yasan is a Muslim boy from the countryside in Xinjiang, China. His mother was left deaf and mute from meningitis, and she frequently wanders away from home. Isa loves his mother deeply, and is torn among taking care of her, going to school and doing farm work. He is friends with a lively little girl named Kalbinur. They are taking care of an adorable lamb together. Kalbinur's grades in her Uyghur are good, but her Chinese scores are terrible. Since Chinese is the national language, her mother wants to move to the city and find temporary work so Kalbinur can go to a Chinese school. Her father doesn't agree to the plan, and the two argue a lot. That winter, Isa's father decides to send Isa's mother to a nursing home, and Kalbinur's family makes plans to leave the village. Isa reads a story called "A First Farewell" in school, and although he does not fully understand the idea of farewell, he will soon experience it himself.

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Don't you want your milk?

Be good, have some.

You can't even imagine
how big the world is.

There are so many skyscrapers
and elevated highways,

and even buildings made of glass.

If you want, you can
come to the city with me.

- Good morning, ma'am.
- There you are, Isa.

Your naan smells so good.
My mouth is watering!

Have a little naan and some tea.

Dad, I want to go to the city with Anwar.

You're not going anywhere.

I want to take my chances in the city.


Who'd take care of us?

I can't even try?

No, I won't let you go!

You better listen to your father, my child.

Take it with you for later.


If you left us for the city,
how much fun would it be?

Better to stay here with us.

If you get the chance, you
should go see the world.

The city is like heaven
compared to this place.

Dad, please just let me see it once.

Abbas! Pass me the ball.

Isa, we have practice.

I can't. I have to go home
to take care of my mom.

Our match is coming up.

If we lose,

we'll all blame it on your mom.

If you don't come today,
you're off the team!

We'll compete without you if we have to!

Let's go.

Come on, let's go.



I'm here for our lamb.

Can I watch her for a few more days?

No. Our deal is for three days.

She's been sick these past few days.

I'll give her back to
you when she's better.

No. We agreed to trade every three days.

But what if I miss her?

You can come to my house and visit her.

What will my mom do if I go to your place?

Brother, give her to me.

Isa, if you don't give her back.

I'll transform you into
a monkey's moustache!

And then transform you
into a monkey's tail!

Then I'll transform you into a frogļ¼Œ

and smash you to bits.

Take her.

Be careful of her legs.

Kalbinur, I'll come over and
make a little house for her.

Sure, come over.

Kalbinur, Alinaz! Wait for me!

What are you doing here?

I came to make that little house.

What about your mom?

I locked the door so she can't get out.

Sweet little lamb. Do you like it?
Do you want to stay here?

Go on and enjoy it.

Aren't my hugs nice and soft?

You don't want to leave me?

All right, get up.

Is it ready?

Get up, OK?

Cover the top.

Put some straw on your side.


Put her in and see if she can get out.

Your side looks a little low.

Let's cover the top.

Put her in,

and let's see if she can get out.

Put her in.

She can't get out.

It needs more there.

It's OK.

OK, now let's cover the top.

Up there?


Isa! Mom is gone!

What do you mean?

Mom wasn't there when I got home!

I have to go look for her.

Isa, can we help?

No, it's OK.

She's really not here.
What are we going to do?

Isa, what did I say?

But I know I locked the door.

I told you to watch her.
Why weren't you here?

It's getting dark. Where
are we going to look?

I should teach you a lesson.

Isa, when are you going to grow up?

What the hell is wrong with you!

Go look in the ditch, and then
down at the main crossroads.

I'll see if she's at the neighbor's.

I should really give you a slap.


Mom! Where are you?






Go to sleep, sweetheart.

Grandma Patam, have you seen my mom?

You poor thing. I haven't seen her.

I locked the door myself.

But now my mom's gone and I can't find her.

Where would she go?

Go look for her so nothing happens.

Goodbye Grandma Patam.

Poor thing.

Poor thing.

Grandpa Ahmati?

- Grandpa Ahmati?
- Who's there?

It's Isa. Was my mom here?

No. Where'd she get off to this late?

- I'm out looking for her.
- Keep looking.

- Goodbye.
- Take care.



- Isa, are there snakes in this desert?
- Yes.

Oh! I'm afraid of snakes.
What are you afraid of?

I'm not afraid of anything.
Except that my mom is gone.

When my mom was Alinaz's age, she was fine.

But then when she was your
age, she got meningitis.

And then she was bitten by a desert spider.

And it made her go deaf.

She couldn't hear a thing.

And from then on, she couldn't talk.

Then she got some kind of disease.

It comes back five or six times a year.

My mom and dad argue a lot.

I'm afraid they'll get divorced.

You shouldn't worry.

You can always tell them
not to get divorced.

Plus I'll study hard

to become the best cadre in the world

and then I can help your
family solve all its problems.

When I grow up, I'll be a cadre
in your production brigade

and help out at your house.

Kalbinur, hurry up!

What's the matter?

I'm too tired to go on.

How far is your aunt's house from here?

It's just past the poplar forest.

I'll carry you.

She's always lagging behind.

Aunt Yixmu, has my mom been here?

Your uncle was herding and
found your mom passed out.

He took her to the hospital.

Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Wait!

Isa, wait! I'm too tired to go with you!

Isa, there are animals in the
desert at night! Come back!

Come on, I'll get you something to eat.

Isa, come here sweetheart.

- How did you get here?
- We walked.

But it's so far! You must be starving.

Your mom will get better.

Sweetheart, your mom will
get out of the hospital soon.

Don't worry, that's a good boy.

Don't worry. You'll see your mom soon.

Darling, you must be hungry.
Have a little naan.

I don't feel like eating.

You have to eat something.
Just start with a little bit.

Darling, have some. You have to eat.

I'll get you some fruit.

- I don't want any. I have to go.
- Sweetheart, it's getting late.

Stay here tonight.

- It's too far. You can leave in the morning.
- OK.

I'll get you some fruit.

Isa, I'll get my mom's bicycle
cart and take you to the hospital.

Thank you.

Dad, I just got back from Auntie's house.
How's mom?

Don't worry. She's OK in the hospital.

You two just take care of the house.

Did you hear me?

Dad, do we have enough money?

I'll figure it out.

Don't worry about it.

OK, I'm off.

Dad, I want to go see mom.

No, you stay here.

If you leave, who will
keep an eye on the sheep?

And the chickens and the
pigeons and the donkeys.

You're the oldest, look after your brother.

Dad, I want to go to the hospital too.

You can't come.

While Mom's in the hospital,

we can't do anything for her here.

When I was your age,

I worried about Mom every day.

I wondered when she would get better.

I'm just as sad as you were.

It'd be great when Mom
comes back if she could say

Kids, I'm home.

Mom, he's really suffering.

It's sad when something
has to give up its life.

He's just like a child.

He's not dead yet.

Do you feel sorry for him?

Don't feel sorry for him.

He's a sacrifice for Eid al-Adha.

Kalbinur, happy Eid al-Adha!

Hello, Isa.

I want to be

- A flower.
- A flower.

Which flower do you want to be?

I want to be a pomegranate flower.

I'd like to be a fig flower.

On the...

On the...



I planted...

I planted...

a pot of flowers.

Kalbinur, study hard. I'll be watching you.

Mom, I've been teaching my brother.
Will you buy me a bike?

Yes. But you have to keep
teaching your brother.

Kalbinur got a 35 on her Mandarin exam.

She sobbed in front of me.

We have to do something.

I want to take them to a
Mandarin-only school in Kuqa.

We'll pick up some work there for money.

I can't move to Kuqa. I can't
leave my father here alone.

His health isn't that good.

He can't remember what he said yesterday.

He's not strong enough to
do a lot around the house.

I can't leave him. I'll just
have to make money here.

You can't make any money from cotton.

Do you really want to stay here?

The cotton is good this year.

There'll be three harvests this year.

If the first doesn't turn a profit,

the second harvest will.

You say that every time. Will
saying it make it happen?

It's not about what you say.

It's better to make money in Kuqa
and send them to a good school.

We don't have much land anyway.

I still can't leave my
father alone to go to Kuqa.

My father is getting old. How can I leave?

Niyaz and Ayaz's children
both speak good Mandarin.

Look at our children, they're just dumb.

We haven't given them a
chance to learn anything.

I'm not saying they shouldn't go to school.

I can earn money here.

- Where?
- Here.

You can't make any money here.

Sure, I can make money here.

You don't know Mandarin. Neither do I.

If I knew Mandarin, I'd teach them myself.

I could help them with their schoolwork.

I didn't realize how important Mandarin is.

The Han kids I grew up
with are all teachers now.

I grew up with them.

We used to speak Uyghur to each other.

Now Mandarin is so important.

You need Mandarin everywhere.

They speak Mandarin at the hospital too.

I can't understand anything.

I really hate being poor.

If we don't do something now

our kids will blame us when they get older.

My hands are so cold.

Come here and get warm.

Time to get up. Your
uniforms are nice and clean.

Aren't you going to school?
Sweetheart, it's already late.

- What time is it?
- 7 AM.

How much time do we have?

Roll call is at 7:30.

By the time you eat
breakfast, you'll be late.

Let's get up. I have
to find my little hero.

Where is my little hero?

Where is he hiding?

I'm going to find my little hero.

Put on your clothes. There isn't much time.

- I am, I am.
- Hurry up.

Are you going to wear it on your head?

Put it on, stop playing around.

But she's still in bed.

She's already dressed.

When you grow up...

When you grow up...

what do you want to do?

What do you want to do?

My classmates all say...

My classmates all say...

Alinaz, you need to learn from your sister.

Let her teach you.







- Dancer.
- Dancer.

And so on.

And so on.

What does 'scientist' mean?

Pick me, pick me.

I want to be a doctor when I grow up.

Then I can help my parents and
grandparents when they get sick.

Good. Who next?

Isa, your turn.

I want to become a doctor
so I can help my mom.

What else?

I want to make money so
I can help my family.

And then I can buy myself a toy.

OK, sit down.

Who can say it in Mandarin?

Munira, tell us what you think.

Leaving my dad and my mom and my home

and coming here, I felt...

my mom... my mom cooks at home.

The food here isn't good.

But my mom's food is so sweet.

Today's lesson is

lesson five: "A First Farewell".

What happened?

Why are you late for school?

Why are you late?


Explain it to me.

I was teaching my brother this morning.

You should do that in the
evenings, not in the morning.

The first class is already over.
Don't be late again.

OK, go in.

Let's begin.

- Stand up.
- Good morning, Mr. Ni.

Good morning, class. Sit down.

I'll explain this simply.

Wang Wei was a very famous
poet in the Tang Dynasty.

And how do people describe his poetry?

"Paintings in poetry,
and poetry in paintings."

So what does that mean?
What does that mean?

Why do people think so highly of him?

His poetry could be described
as a beautiful painting.

The title includes a date: September Ninth.

It also includes an event:

someone missing his brothers
East of Mt. Huashan.

OK. Let's read it together.

September. Ready?

"Missing My Brothers East of Mt.
Huashan on Double Ninth Festival"

Try it again.

"Missing My Brothers East of Mt.
Huashan on Double Ninth Festival"

Wang Wei. Tang Dynasty.

An unfamiliar visitor in an unfamiliar town

Each festival doubles my longing for home

Twinkle twinkle little star

How I wonder what you are

Grandpa says stars are the prettiest.

Talk to me my little stars.

Can I be your friend?

You light up the whole sky.
I can't count all of you.

I want to be your friend.

You wink, but you won't talk to me.

Mom, did you like the
song I just sang for you?

My girl,

when your mom divorced me,
I wrote a song for her.

Do you want to hear it?

Did Mom leave you before?

Yeah, your mom used to be like that.

If someone's bad, you should leave him.

Should I sing it?


For my love.

I'm your grieving lark

A lark who's lost his love

I lost my beloved Tajigul

My love is like a lark

Beautiful as a goddess

With eyebrows like crescent moons

Your eyes are like pure water

When you went away

My heart cried in the night

I was filled with sorrow

The flowers cried for me

Eight heavens couldn't match your beauty

I've lost my only love

My Tajigul, like a lark

- Is that it?
- That's it.

I thought there'd be more. It's too short.

Your song won me back.

- I'm so moved!
- Really?

You should make it longer,
so you can sing all night.

I'm afraid it would make you cry.

So I kept it short.

I'm really moved! Mom, you were so bad.

The lark almost lost you.

When you go off to school, what will I do?

Isa will be here.

But Isa has to go to school too.

When are you leaving?

I have to leave today.

I'll leave around 1PM.

Finish your work before you go.

Take it slow.

What's university like?


It's very big.

You can be a cadre if you go to university.

So you should study hard.

Cadres are educated at university.
When you finish, you're a cadre.

If you go to university,
you'll have a future.

Is there a train at the university?

After you leave, you'll
only come back once a year.

Who knows if Mom will be better or not.

You have to study hard
and do better than me.

I'll never test into Xinjiang University.

- You'll have to do it.
- OK.

Don't let me down.

Take good care of Mom.

Go back and help Dad with the work.

Mom can't help because she's sick.

Go home and help Dad.

- Can you do that?
- Yes.

Wash your face more often. Be neat.

You should act more educated.


Go back. I have to go.

I have to harvest the corn
and then plant the wheat.

We have to get the wheat in.

Take your mom and help
Grandma Rahmu pick the cotton.

She hasn't picked it all yet.

Bring it over here, and put it on top.

These have a lot of corn on them.

Put it here.

Dad, I said I shouldn't take Mom out today.
You didn't listen.

Now she has a fever.

If she's sick, we take her to the hospital.

I've thought about it
for nearly two months.

I want to put your mom in a nursing home.

If you take her there, I'll quit school.


So I can stay home and take care of her.

You should bind the stalks
before you move them.

You should have brought back more.

I don't know what to do about your mom.

Stripping corn is simple.

But things with your mom are complicated.

Pass the ball!



I want some too.

Watch out!


That leaf is pretty spicy.

Our lamb ate it like this,
so I'll do it the same way.

If you eat it, you'll feel
a cool breeze in your mouth.

It's yummy.

Let me try.

Try here on my muscle.

Like this.

It's my turn to hit you.

You're wearing two layers.

Do you want me to hit you?

Did I say you could hit me?

Did I?

Let me hold the lamb.

Poplar trees really can
live three thousand years.

Little lamb, come have some of this.

You mean fifteen years?

No, not fifteen years,
three thousand years.

Do you want to eat this? Come here.

I'd like to put my wife in a nursing home,

and I want your opinions.

I don't want my sister in a nursing home.

She can't control herself.

She'll run wild.

She can't wash herself.

She can't even go to the toilet by herself.

She couldn't take living in a nursing home.

So I don't agree.

You should agree to send her away.

The government is our father too.

Yasan, you should let her be sent away.

We all agree.

Just agree.

Don't be stubborn.

Yasan, you've held out for so long.

She's been sick for a long time.

The nursing home is just like home.

They'll take good care of her.

I saw on TV

that they take care of those in need.

The conditions are pretty good now.

You should just send her there.

I solemnly swear

I believe in myself

I work hard

I dream big

I will

under our teachers' guidance

study hard and ask questions

be united and concentrate

be well-behaved and obedient

develop fully

and become

a quality student

a good child

and in society

be a good citizen.

Never forgetting our country

and thankful for our upbringing.

I pledge this.

My name is Isa.

To decrease the harm to
people from sandstorms,

we must cover the land with green.

Mom has so many problems.

We should take care of her at home.

Why would you send her away?

I'm sick too.

I'm weak and I have to
run around after your mom.

She breaks things when I'm not home.

If I look after your mom,

there's no one to do all the other work.

So that's why you sent her away?

You didn't even talk to us first.

We should've talked about it together.

Dear Brother, if you didn't go to
school and I didn't go to school

our family would still live our
lives together, eat together...

Have some.

You'll grow up big and strong if you eat.

Have some water.

Come on.

Your beard is growing.

This place is nice,

and the atmosphere isn't bad.

It's best if your mom stays here.

The food is good too.

When are we coming back?


Let's take Mom home.

She's already much better.

I have to work,

and there's no one to look after her.

Is this flower real or plastic?

It's real.

Parents, your child's education
requires us to work together.

Everyone probably already knows that.

From this day on,

if a child is late or doesn't
do his homework three times

we need you to take it seriously.

We can't have parents come to
school with their kids, can we.

Your children know how to eat
and walk and dress themselves

and that means they can study as well.

If a child's marks are bad, that
means the parents aren't doing enough.

They're not teaching them properly.

Kalbinur Rahmati, please stand up.

Let's look at Kalbinur's marks.

Let me say this clearly:

Math 66

Uyghur 71

Mandarin 20.5

Will Kalbinur's parent please stand up?

I'd like to know how you help
Kalbinur with her studies

and what you think of her teachers.

I'd like to know what her
parents are really thinking.

I was so busy with the cotton harvest,
I didn't have time to help her.

She watched too much TV and fell behind.

I was in Gujili picking cotton and
was away from her for three months.

I'm ashamed she's fallen behind.

I'll be stricter with her.

Is there something that
you need from her teachers?

I hope you'll be harder on her.
I will be too.

- That's all.
- Please sit down.

Kalbinur, stand up.

No one told you to sit down.

See how unhappy your mom is? You can't
be late with your homework anymore.

What grade are you in?


You're not in first grade, are you?

Look at your grades!

How could you get a 20.5
on your Mandarin exam?

It's like you don't know a single thing!

Your parents won't accept such low grades.

A lot of it is even multiple choice.

How was the parent meeting?


Just like you wanted,

she only got 20 points.

- 20 points?
- Yes, only 20 points.

Just like me. I'd get 10
points when I was a kid.

You say that all the time.
You don't discipline them.

You just say they're like me.

You're their father, of
course they're like you.

What should I do?

You can tell them to study
instead of watching TV.

You just say they're like you.

I always ask if they have homework.

But you leave the TV on.

You always say they're like you.
Are you pround of her 20 points?

You always talk about your 10
points and how you'd skip class.

I don't remember that.

So Alinaz skips class too.

He skipped twice after hearing you.

He thinks his dad skipped
class, so he can too.

The kids pick up on what you say.

God, kids are too much.

You can't say anything in front of them.

They're so bad, watching TV all day.

Sit down.

That's a horse for you.
A donkey couldn't pull this load.

What a good horse.

I won't use my hands.

You can count on my hands.

17 minus 8.

I'll lend you seven fingers.

Give them to me.

- Is it 10?
- No, it's 15.

Figure out 17 minus 8.

Hurry up, or I'll give you a smack.

The answer is 8.

Count carefully.

No, you missed a finger.

That's 10, this is 7, count again.

Is it 8?

This character is so annoying.

Did you go to school yesterday?

Which one is 73? Count more carefully.

Shameless. There you are laughing.

6 times 7, and then...

Father of my children,

I'm talking to you.

You should attend the next parent meeting.

I was scolded in front of everybody.

Alinaz's scores were really low.


At the parent meeting, your
teacher told me to stand up.

The messiest kid is Alinaz.

The naughtiest kid is Alinaz.

The kid who gets into fights is Alinaz.

The kid skipping class is Alinaz.

What's going on?

I cried. I regret having such a son.

My classmate hit me first.

- Didn't you see me crying?
- No.

Didn't you feel at all bad?

I really didn't see you cry.

You should watch me more carefully.

And then, I went to Kalbinur's meeting.

Do you want a spanking?

Kalbinur also has a lot of problems.

Did you do all that?

Don't just talk about it.

You have to care about their education.

Look at what Niyaz does.

He takes his kids to learn
from their Han neighbors.

His kids could cover a
wall with all their awards.

And what have we done for our children?

You won't even let them change schools.

Isa came over for dinner the other day.

He just sat there and cried.
I asked him what was wrong.

He said his mom was sent to a nursing home.

I thought I'd see what's going on.

I divorced once, you know.

When it happened, my kids
were left alone a lot.

So my family persuaded me
to remarry him, and I did.

Now my kids are happy again.

It's tough for me, but my kids are happy.

I know it's hard for you. But
it's worth it for the kids.

Even if their mother is sick,

it's better for the kids to have her there.

I got divorced only
because I couldn't take it.

But it made the kids too sad.

So you should bring Isa's mom back.

We'll celebrate your birthday on March 4th,

my little lamb.

I'll sing a birthday song for my lamb.


What did you get on your Mandarin final?

60.5 points.

At least you passed.
I only got 20.5 points.

Alinaz, what did you get?

Exams are just luck!

I don't care at all!

My mom wants to take me to a
Mandarin-only school in Kuqa.

- Alinaz, are you going too?
- No, I'm not going.

I want to stay here and
take care of the sheep.

My Mandarin is fine. I'll just stay here.

If you go to Kuqa, we'll be really lonely.

- When will you come back?
- I don't know.

You'll be the top student
if you go to Kuqa.

Study hard, and you'll do really well.

The most important thing is Mandarin.

And math too.

I cheated on my exam, and
the teacher scolded me.

You embarrassed your teacher,
so he's going to punish you.

He can't do anything to me.

Once my sister goes to Kuqa, I'll be free.

We can play together all day long.

But it won't be as much fun without you.

Can we take Isa too?

And all my friends?

No. Everyone has to
learn how to say goodbye.

We all have to say goodbye.

One day you'll bid me farewell.

I had to leave my parents to come here.

And you'll do the same when you grow up.

I can't afford to raise
other people's children.

Then let's take our house with us.

- How?
- With an excavator.

If we move the house with an excavator

it'll break in half.

We can't take it with us.

It'd just fly away.

Can we take Grandpa with us?

OK, we'll bring him.


No need to pinkie swear.

While he's alive, he'll
come with us, right?

As long as Isa is in your
pictures, you'll never be apart.

You can always be
together in your pictures.

Don't let my moustache scratch you, my son.

Can't you shave your moustache?

You won't recognize me if I shave it off.

I'll recognize you.

Then I'll shave.

My little lamb.

Your train's wheels don't
even touch the rails.

Is your little lamb on the train?

Alinaz is flying away.

I'm as tall as Isa, and we're
giving each other flowers.

Alinaz is too short to reach,

so the wind blew him up into the air.

It was my first time on the train.

The train was very big
and had a lot of cars.

It was fast, but stable.

And it was very nice inside.

Did you know there are
toilets on the train?

The attendants were also very nice.

Dad once said there are
no windows on trains,

and it gets stuffy inside.

But it's not actually like that.

There are windows and chairs
and tables on the train.

Someday I want to ride the train a lot.

I've learned a lot at my school.

I wasn't used to it when I first came here.

But slowly I've gotten used to it.

Hurry up.

Study hard when you get to Kuqa.

- I'm not going to school!
- Why not?

Dad, my lamb is missing!

Isn't she in the yard?

Little lamb!

Where are you?

A lovely voice is praising nature


naughty child


little window


sweet dreams

poplar branches


beautiful folksong

village road

ringing bells

mother's embrace

flock of little birds



warm breezes

Moonlight arrives through the window

A beautiful folksong
floats through the village

A naughty child leans against a poplar tree

Singing praises to his mother's scent

Candlelight enters the child's dreams

A distant silhouette of a woman

The sun illuminates the moon

Who has set its heart on fire?