On Mongolia’s vast plateau, heavenly green grasslands are being covered by the gloomy dust of a growing mining industry. Herdsmen and their families have no choice but to move away as grazing meadows dwindle. Day and night, miners are busy picking out coals from mountains of rocks. In nearby ironworks, men bake in the scorching heat like the condemned in ‘Inferno’.
Mayor GENG Yanbo announces a bold five-year plan to return the city of Datong to its former glory. In the hope to transform one of China's most polluted cities into a cultural and tourist destination, the city government is to forcibly demolish a hundred thousand households and relocate half a million people to give way to the restoration of ancient relic walls.
Of Shadows shows the creative world of shadow theatre and the puppeteers whose way of life balances between a centuries-old rural narrative tradition and the modern, urban idea of a cultural heritage that has to be preserved. It is a touching portrait of a travelling theatre company in the northwest of China, where the age-old art is still kept alive.
This film was shot in Gulang, Gansu Province, where I made two other films. When I return to the footage I shot there, I realise that I have been to many peasants’ houses with MAO Zedong's picture on the walls. Although MAO's era has ended decades ago, he remains as a strong folk belief, a divinity in this atheistic country. This film is literally about the people living in those houses.
Besides the student leaders who have been actively involved in the 2014 Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, there have been many unsung heroes supporting the movement in different ways. This film contains twenty memorandums which recorded the story of a group of young people struggling to fight for their own future, with ups and downs along the way.
With two ill-healthed parents unfit for heavy manual labour and a nine-year-old brother still attending primary school, a pair of teenage twin sisters dropped out of school to contribute to the financial difficulty of their family. One day, when their parents went to work in a neighbouring village, the sisters become responsible for all the household tasks.
This film documents the preparation and forced cancellation of the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival in 2014. The footage used for the film was captured by members of audience, festival workers, participating filmmakers and members of the press who witnessed the ‘the darkest day’ in the history of Chinese independent film.
Yibu SUGAN lost his father when he was young. He nearly died elsewhere before returning home to live with his mother. With the arrival of volunteer teachers, he is pleased to see the village children get the education they need. He also attends the classes occasionally. Electricity became available in the village in 2012. With TV, he has a new way to learn more about the outside world.
For more than three years, the director filmed the making of a section of a highway through a quiet village in Hunan, a province in central China where Chairman MAO was born. Local villagers and temples are forced to move and migrant workers endure very difficult working conditions, while the management of the construction company wants their share of the financial apple.
Erdeng is a shaman from the grasslands of West Ujimqin Banner near the Mongolian border in China. When he was young, he has learnt under a respected shaman in Mongolia. Baolidao, Erdeng’s son, prefers a more modern life in China. In 2012, they travelled to Mongolia and, seeing the power of the shaman with his own eyes, Baolidao began to develop a new appreciation for his people.
A film festival is unable to screen films, citizens do not own their city, a lion’s mane must be found in Beijing, the police use tear gas against citizens, whilst the leader of the country becomes a God for atheists. From day to day life to absurd realities, from a cancelled independent film festival to the Umbrella Revolution, on this vast land of plenty, the freedom to make and screen documentary films is being threatened. In this section, we pay our respect and admiration to those risking government censorship.