More than 1 billion people in the world live on less than $1 per day, according to the World Bank. These women, children, and men are considered the poorest of the poor. They often lack enough resources for basic survival. They come from nearly every country.
Worldwide, 2.78 billion live on less than $2 a day. Practically that means they are often hungry and malnourished, have limited or no access to clean water and health care, and little or no access to education. The infant mortality rate is high, life expectancy is low, and exposure to disease is constant and often deadly.
Poverty steals not only a person's security and health but also dignity. A poor person is often too busy surviving the present to spend much time thinking about the future.
Three Sisters is director Wang Bing's seventh feature and it revolves around the lonely and exhausting daily existence of three sisters who live in a small village in China's Yunnan province. Using his own distinctive brand of long-form observational cinema, he immerses us in the midst of their hard-working lives. Here is a spiritually attuned film that puts before our eyes and hearts the hidden lives of the very poor who feel left out of China's "economic miracle."
The mother of these sisters left them behind years ago, and their father is looking for work in the city. Their grandfather and aunt don't have the energy or inclination to look after them, and so it falls upon the oldest, Yingying, a ten-year-old girl, to do so. She tries to be patient but the energy and emotional moodiness of six-year-old Zhenzhen and four-year-old Fenfen prove to be quite taxing. An illustration of Yingying's kindness is her repeated ritual of picking lice out of the hair of her siblings.
Yingying has shortness of breath and a bad cough to show for the long hours she puts in with her sisters and tending the animals, which include three large pigs, sheep, and goats. She is momentarily happy when her father returns home with gifts for his daughters, but she is disappointed when he decides to take the two youngest back to the city with him.
Yingying's feelings of being stranded are exacerbated by a neighbor who refuses her request to play with him and by an angry girl who berates her in public. The final straw is when he father returns home and introduces a babysitter and her young daughter who will now be living with them in the tiny and filthy shack they call home. Her discontent is further mirrored in the community's town meeting where the poor peasants respond negatively to a governmental move to collect health insurance fees that none of them can afford to pay.