Step Into The River Image

Step Into The River

By Alan Ng | November 9, 2021

In Weijia Ma’s animated short, Step Into The River, two girls forge a bond through trauma in a small Chinese village. Wei is a young girl living with her grandmother, while her parents live in the city. Lu is her friend and lives with her adopted father.

Trauma is a bond the two girls share as Lu has a genetic skin disorder, vitiligo. She is shunned and bullied by the other kids, and Wei is always standing up for her. Lu lives with her adoptive father when she was abandoned and almost drowned by her birth parents.

“…abandoned and almost drowned by her birth parents.”

Wei, on the other hand, lives with her grandparents. Her older brother passed away as an infant, and under China’s One-Child Policy, Wei was sent away by her parents to hide her existence from the government.

Step Into The River is a haunting tale of girls living in China under its One-Child Policy. The river is significant as children who have passed are placed in the river for the current to take them away. Wei is drawn to the river by visions of her dead brother. Lu eventually takes Wei out into the river to see her brother and encounters the ghosts of other children.

Step Into The River is a combination of pastel backgrounds and 2D line animation. It may not be the most sophisticated animation style, but writer/director Weija Ma blends the two mediums beautifully, creating rain and underwater effects. Sophisticated or not, Ma’s short film is a master storyteller bringing both the emotions of her characters and the intense drama to the girls’ plight.

Step Into the River (2021)

Directed and Written: Weijia Ma

Starring: Yifei Chen, Mingen Zhang, Guifen Zhang, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Step Into the River Image

"…a haunting tale of girls living in China under its One-Child Policy."

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