I really enjoyed this film. The movie is based on the autobiography of Li Cunxin. At age 11 he was chosen to attend Madame Mao's Beijing Dance Academy. In 1979 he was the first of a group of exchange students allowed to go to America and study with the Houston Ballet. In 1981 he decided to defect and was held hostage for 21 hours in the Chinese Amabassy until finally released.
The film does flash back and forth from Li's childhood in a poor northern Chinese commune to his time in the Beijing Dance Academy and his time in Houston. It is chilling to see how generations of children were indoctrinated into becoming soldiers in the Red Guard. I think some parents may see the training of young children at the dance academy as abusive but for Li Cunxin this was an opportunity to improve his life.
I think the highlight of the movie are the dance sequences because these are real dancers playing the parts. There are no body doubles and the strength and agility of the ballets dancers is amazing. I also like how some of the parables Li's father and teachers tell relate to what he is going through.
I highly recommend this movie. It does have a smaller release and in only playing in the 2 art house cinemas in the Norhtern Virginia and DC metro area but it is very worthwhile.