“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…