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The original idea for “My Life In China”.

by Ken Eng January 07, 2015

The original idea for “My Life In China”.

“My Life In China” was originally pitched as a documentary film that wove 4 stories of immigration together as a window into modern day China. In the beginning, I wanted to compare 4 different stories of people who migrated with the same goal: to change their surroundings in hopes of a better life. The film would be a study about how China’s socio-economic situation can produce new kinds of immigrants who move for new reasons. By painting portraits of these people, the film would be a study about how the migrations of different Chinese people shape the cultural landscape of modern-day China. How do they hold onto their identity? How do they adapt to their new surroundings?

The plan was to film my father’s story in the first 3 weeks. Then, travel to the other places to search our for our other “stories” of migration.

First, we went to Chengdu to research the 3 Gorges Dam project. One of the “studies” was going to be a family who was relocated by the government to build the 3 Gorges Dam. From Chengdu, we took a train up to Lhasa, Tibet to find a Chinese Foot Masseuse. We met a young girl who was searching for a Tibetan boyfriend. She was essentially spreading Chinese culture through her foot massage. Then we went to Beijing and met a migrant worker who left his farm and family behind to do construction for the Beijing Olympics. The harsh conditions and low pay show that countless people are still being taken advantage of. Our last stop was Shanghai where we had to find a family who was relocated to make room for the 3 Gorges Dam. Many people were relocated to Chong Ming Island – an eco-friendly engineered city where many resettled people live together. Filming my father’s story was a journey in itself, but going to all these other places was a whole other thing!

Please check out this short video that shows the other stories that we tried to build:

I think deep down, in the back of my mind, if we couldn’t build enough interest for the other 3 stories, the backup plan would be to make “My Life In China” about my father’s story.

 And here we are…

Ken Eng
Ken Eng


Kenneth Eng is a director, editor and executive producer. After graduating from Boston Latin School, Ken left for New York in 1994 to study film at the School of Visual Arts. His thesis Scratching Windows, a short documentary film about graffiti writers, was broadcast as part of the doc series REEL NY on WNET - NY PBS. In 2001, Ken directed and edited Take Me to The River a feature length documentary about the Maha Kumbh Mela festival in Allahabad, India. Kokoyakyu: High School Baseball, his film about the famous Koshien Tournament in Japan was nationally broadcast on PBS as part of POV and continues to play in Japan on NHK-TV. In 2007, Ken was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship to launch My Life In China. Recently, he edited Tested for director Curtis Chin, and is currently developing projects on post-genocide reconciliation in Rwanda and the rise of baseball in China.

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