To Sing To Live

- CHINA / 2013 / Chinese / Color / Blu-ray / 62 min

Director, Script, Producer: Zhao Gang
Photography: Zhao Gang, Qian Ge, Deng Gang
Editing: Lou Quan
Sound: Li Qian
Source: Zhao Gang, Zheng Qiong

Eleven members of a traditional theatre troupe perform daily and live out their lives in a small playhouse in the Sichuan region of China. Their three-hour show combines various forms, from classical Chinese opera to acrobatics, and is adored by the locals. Their star actress Dandan has performed in the troupe with her mother since she was little, sharing a living space with a group of performers who share no absence of fights. Though she worries about her future, she continues to earnestly perform the heroine for her elderly audience.

[Director’s Statement] China is a nation possessing a civilization that dates from ancient times. In its long history, China has experienced the birth, development, passing down, and disappearance of many traditions.

The Sichuan Opera can be counted as one of the eight great works of Chinese theatre, and is the representative play of the Sichuan region. I became interested in this play, which has long been the local culture of this place.

At its inception, the opera was popular with commoners, and many theatre troupes would perform it in the streets. While this bright period continued for over a century, the opera now faces a crisis of extinction. My motive for making this film was a desire to record the current situation that this old play finds itself in. In doing so, one can read the difficulties traditional Chinese culture faces in continuing to exist.

Amidst China’s sudden development, this small theatre troupe is pushed into the margins of society, its continued existence threatened by the thundering roar of the machinery of modernization. The traditions and belief they inherited from their ancestors must now confront the present and a reality of poverty, and are becoming fragile, strange things. Their tradition lives in the theatre; their belief lives on stage. All that remains is to earn enough to eat. This is the real situation these performers find themselves in. Their reality is a metaphor. It is a microcosm.

- Zhao Gang

Zhao Gang is a documentary film director and a member of the Chinese Artists Association, as well as director of the Documentary Academy of China Television Association. From 1996 to present, he has constantly been working on documentary film productions. His Shangshu Academy Witness (2010) was selected for the New Asia Film Festival at the Cinevolution Media Arts Society in Canada, and was a finalist for the Golden Panda Award in International Documentary at the 10th Sichuan TV Festival. The Sun in Winter (2003) ranked Class One of Year 2003 in National Broadcast and Television Programs, and was pre-selected for the 17th China Golden Eagle TV Awards and the 13th French FIPA International Movie and Television Festival. His other credits as director include People Living in Tibetan Village (1996), Godly Gatekeeper (1998), Reign of Heaven (1999), Confess at Dusk (2004), and Person Like Me (2006).