Film follows Chinese pilgrims' progress to Mecca

By Zhang Liping
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, March 15, 2012
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For every able-bodied Muslim, the hajj, one of the largest pilgrimages in the world, is a religious duty which must be performed at least once during a devotee's lifetime. To that aim, every year, Muslim pilgrims journey to the Holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The same, of course, holds true for Chinese Muslims.

In early February, a documentary focusing on Chinese pilgrims' journey to Mecca debuted on the National Geographic's Asian network. The 60-minute film named "The Chinese Hajj" was co-produced by China Intercontinental Communication Center and the National Geographic Channel and focuses on five Chinese Muslims from different provinces during their pilgrimage in 2010.

The documentary was filmed in locations as diverse as Beijing, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and Yunnan Province, thereby covering almost all of China's Muslim areas.

Jing Shuiqing is the director of the International Department at the China Intercontinental Communication Center. [] 

According to Jing Shuiqing, director of the International Department at the China Intercontinental Communication Center, the documentary will present a true picture of the lives of both China's Muslim population and other Chinese people.

Commenting on the making of the documentary, Jing told that he had been impressed by the devotion and dedication of those depicted in the piece. "In my eyes, each story in the film is touching and impressive," he said. "What moved me in particular during the entire process of filming and production was that the Muslims would do anything, would devote their lives in order to finish the pilgrimage to Mecca. Such firm adherence to their faith certainly deserves our full respect."

Jing added that a lot of work was required prior to shooting the documentary in order to ensure that the process went smoothly. "We set up a research and executive group, which consisted of both Chinese and foreign religious experts to oversee the shooting of scenes, both in China and Saudi Arabia, he said. "In addition, we had to select appropriate subjects for the documentary from the more than 130,000 Chinese Muslim pilgrims who make the journey to Mecca each year. This was our main headache. The research work before filming is actually a creative process."

He continued: "During filming, we also conquered lots of difficulties. First is the problem of gaining permission to film. Mecca is regarded as the holiest city in the religion of Islam, and non-Muslims are forbidden to enter. Therefore, our entire team, including the director and photographer were all Muslims."

He added: "Language was another difficulty. Because the filming locations included Beijing, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Yunnan, Mecca and Medina, we have to use Chinese, Arabic, English and Uighur in order to communicate fluently with the subjects of the documentary, our team, and local citizens. So our production team was a multi-national and multi-ethnic one."

Following its first screening in the Asia-Pacific region on Feb. 5, it is anticipated that the film will subsequently be watched by 380 million viewers from over 165 countries and regions globally. In addition to the English-language version, the documentary will be translated into 37 languages, including Chinese, Arabic and Uighur. There are also plans to submit the documentary to the Asian Television Awards and other television festivals throughout Europe and America.

Commenting on the film's universal themes and potential draw for such a wide audience, Jing concluded: "Many Muslims were moved to tears after watching the film. I think that is because 'The Chinese Hajj' tells the real story of Chinese Muslims and reflects their real lives. Actually, it doesn't matter whether you are Muslim or non-Muslim, some emotions are common among all human beings."

(The article was first written in Chinese and translated by Lin Liyao.)

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