Documentary series shows hard lives outside Beijing

08:48, June 30, 2010      

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Many people live their lives without appreciating how privileged they are compared to people around them, or to people they never see.

That's why a group of young adults in Beijing met Saturday at Broadway Cinematheque MOMA: to learn about people whose lives are more difficult than their own.

A group of young adults in Beijing met Saturday at Broadway Cinematheque MOMA: to learn about people whose lives are more difficult than their own.

"There is a small group of people who get together to watch documentaries about people who are living at a very low level," said Yao Congqi, one of Saturday's film viewers.

She and her friend Yu Lu said they like to come view the films because it allows them to see people living in ways they'd never get to see on their own.

Yao and Yu said they find out about the upcoming documentary screenings from a website that posts upcoming events in Beijing and other cities, The films are shown with English and Chinese subtitles, when necessary.

Three films were shown Saturday: Letters to the President, a film about citizens of Iran writing letters to appeal for help from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; The Children of the Depths, about children living in a state home because they were abandoned; and A Farmer's Struggle, about a farmer battling desertification in Minqin in northwest China.

The girls both said the last two films were their favorite, because they are about China.

The Children of the Depths was filmed by 22-year-old Ma Fangfang, a student at Zhejiang University of Technology.

<center class="t091105">The Children of the Depths

It explores the hardships of children living in the Protection Center of Street Children in Hongzhou. Most of the children have been abandoned, and some have developmental disabilities.

The children in the protection center are schooled, but the film conveys that these schools are sub-par.

"The second film [The Children of the Depths] was filmed in our hometown of Hongzhou, but we never knew about it," Yao said. "Our schools were nothing like that."

A Farmer's Struggle, directed by Zhao Liang, introduces the problem of desertification of China's land through the eyes of Wei Guangcai. Wei and his wife are the last people living in their small village; all the other families left when the lake dried up.

But Wei stands determined to keep his land and his life.

The girls said they were most surprised by A Farmer's Struggle.

<center class="t091105">A farmer's struggle

"I went to Inner Mongolia, near where [A Farmer's Struggle] was filmed, and we learned that the sandstorms are a severe situation," Yu said. "I never saw the people in a direct way to know their living conditions. I was shocked by the film," she said.

In one scene of the documentary, Wei goes to a school to convince the headmaster to let him teach. There are children reading aloud a passage, which Yao said upset her.

"I was sad when the kids were reading the passage," Yao said. "In English, it said something like 'Here comes the spring, and the Earth gets wet.' It made me want to cry because they've never seen that in the spring."

A Farmer's Struggle ends with a series of questions that show Wei's future is uncertain, the state of living for many impoverished people across China and the world.



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