BEIJING, April 17 -- "We want more people to observe the Chinese traits of resilience and frugality via introducing delicious Chinese food," said Chen Xiaoqing of his new documentary series "A Bite of China II."
The series, produced by China Central Television (CCTV) as a sequel to 2012 hit "A Bite of China," will air on Fridays starting this week.
Food has a significant position in Chinese culture, according to Chen, chief director of "A Bite of China II."
"We hope that, through the sequel documentary, more people around the world will have a better understanding of Chinese tradition and social changes," he said during an interview alongside members of his shooting team.
WORKING UP A HUNGER
In 2013, the team visited more than 150 Chinese locations, covering a distance of over 400,000 km.
Chen estimates that every one minute that viewers will see has been refined down from 150 minutes of footage, a process which was "both physically and intellectually challenging."
"A Bite of China II" includes eight episodes covering the stories of more than 150 people and over 300 types of food. Each episode was filmed by a different team composed of four to five people led by a sub-director.
Liu Shuo, sub-director in charge of the "Realm of Mystery" episode, said that in fact all of the filmed places are mysterious -- they were difficult to reach and in many cases full of hardship.
"Of particular difficulty was being challenged to capture changes in the weather with the camera. We were constantly in the hands of various natural forces," she said.
She revealed that before filming even begun, they had to travel extensively to research suitable stories, as not only the food but the people making it had to fit the theme of the show.
"I had to forget myself and my gender as it was common to live without taking a shower for a week," Liu said of her experiences on the road.
CHINESE DOCS GOING GLOBAL
The effort seems to have been worth it for the international recognition garnered by the series. For Chen, the reward came when he saw "A Bite of China II" appear as the most prominent poster at Mipcom, the annual TV and entertainment trade market in Cannes, France.
That moment was all the more sweet because it was a visit to Mipcom in 2011 that inspired Liu Wen, chief director of the CCTV documentary channel, to up the game of Chinese documentaries. Liu wanted a Chinese production to gain the same plaudits as the Korean documentary featured on the show's main poster that year.
"Now, organizers of international documentary exhibitions would lose face if there were no Chinese-made works displayed," according to Chen.
He added that Chinese documentary makers have also won success in international awards as Chinese documentaries have begun to impress the world by showing the great changes sweeping the country
However, Chen is aware Chinese documentaries still need to be improved to match big-budget productions like those of the BBC and National Geographic Channel. Unlike the Chinese system, these are generally commercially sponsored and made to earn profit.
"There is still much room for our documentaries to improve through creative ideas and scientific research," the filmmaker said.