CHINA / 2007 / Chinese / Color / Video / 114 min
Director, Photography, Producer: Feng Yan
Editing: Feng Yan, Mathieu Haessler
Associate Producer: Zhang Yaxuan
Source: Feng Yan
Many of the 1.13 million residents who are to be relocated upon completion of the Three Gorges Dam, currently under construction, are farmers. The camera closely follows seven years in the life of the gutsy Bingai. In contrast to the fierceness that she shows when fighting with the officials who try to convince her to relocate, she reveals her vulnerability when she discusses her anxieties, her family, and her marriage, speaking as she works her farm or by candlelight. The director tenaciously captures the subtleties of Bingai’s emotions in order to bring out her true, touching self, and limns the love for the land that beckons her to stay.
[Director’s Statement] Of all the subjects I’ve had the chance to film, Zhang Bingai took the longest to warm up to me and reveal herself. We’d known each other for eight years before she confided to me the story of her life. When there is water about to rise up and submerge your house, and you are burdened by the huge pressure to make final decisions, all the memories of your rough life come raging out like floodwaters breaking through a dam. I was caught in this riptide and I drifted, unable to move at all, enveloped in a story I felt as though I had heard before, and I even shuddered for an instant with the feeling that I had touched her soul. As Bingai talked unhesitatingly to the camera in between her busy farm work and heated negotiations with officials, I understood how all her past choices and actions were based on her own life experiences. As I was editing Bingai, I came to realize that parallels emerged between her history and current situation entirely in the order in which the scenes were shot. A life’s richness and complexity goes far beyond our imagination. This coincidence made me lament over my silly and unnecessary efforts to try to “compose” the film.
Feng Yan was born and raised in Tianjin, where she studied Japanese literature prior to coming to Japan in 1988 for a stay which lasted 13 years. She started making documentaries in 1994. Her first feature film Dreams of Changjiang (1997) was shown as part of New Asian Currents at YIDFF ’97, as well as at the 22nd Hong Kong International Film Festival and the 1st Taiwan International Documentary Festival in 1998, where it was awarded a Merit Prize. Bingai received the top prize at the 4th China Documentary Film Festival in 2007.