"To Live" is a novel based on the book by Yu Hua. It follows the life of main character Fugui, starting in the 1940s and moving through the 1960s. After losing his family fortune and house because of his gambling addiction, Fugui must survive with whatever skills he has. He becomes a puppet show performer, is taken to be part of the Chinese armed forces, then becomes a performer for the Communist army. Eventually he makes his was back to his family and the rest of the movie depicts life under Communist rule. Despite many heartaches, including the deaths of both of his children, Fugui maintains an optimistic outlook about the future, tell his grandson it "gets better and better."
There are some sections of the movie that could be used with elementary students. I think my third graders would enjoy the sections that show the puppet show. There is a lot of intricate detail in the puppets themselves and an interesting technique to creating the movement of the puppets. This would be a great lesson that could be followed up by students creating their own puppets and developing a story for a shadow puppet show. This project would include the integration of language arts, visual arts, theater, and music standards. I think for older students studying about life under Communist rule there are a lot of sections that show both the positive and negative aspects of daily life for working class people. Despite the pressure and difficulty of life, it seemed there was a lot of hope and optimism that this was the correct way.