​New documentary sheds light on China's poverty alleviation efforts

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, April 20, 2023
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China's remarkable success in poverty alleviation has caught the world's attention. The documentary film "Rooting" provides an intimate insight into the country's poverty alleviation efforts through the inspiring story of the Nu ethnic group, one of China's smallest ethnic communities, and their journey to overcome poverty by building a vital road.

The film captures the authentic lives of the Nu people, who underwent a significant transformation after the construction of the road as part of the government's poverty alleviation campaign.

Director Chai Hongfang receives praise from audiences at the premiere of "Rooting," held in Beijing, April 14, 2023. [Photo courtesy of Elemeet]

For generations, the Nu people lived in isolation and relied solely on manual labor and livestock assistance for daily tasks.

The lack of a road posed significant challenges for residents of Shawa village. For instance, they had to transport sick individuals on stretchers for kilometers down the mountain to reach a hospital. Children had to walk long distances to get to school.

The stark contrast between the stunning landscape and the impoverished living conditions made a lasting impression on director Chai Hongfang and her film crew. Upon arrival, they found that their post-production room was a rundown schoolroom and their dormitory was close to a pigpen where a mother pig and her piglets snored and roosters crowed throughout the night. 

Over four years, the team filmed "Rooting" in the village located at an altitude of 2,000 meters in Yunnan province. Despite language barriers and the villagers' initial hesitance towards outsiders, the crew persevered, amassing over 700 hours of footage.

"The language barrier was the biggest challenge we faced. The villagers were initially skeptical of us and couldn't fathom an outsider team staying in their village for four years. To gain their trust, we walked alongside them, carrying firewood just like they did," Chai said.

Villagers carry an ill older woman down the mountain before constructing the road that connects their remote, isolated village. [Photo courtesy of Elemeet]

In a pivotal scene, the villagers' joy was palpable as Chinese rural officials announced plans to build a road, providing opportunities for education, employment, and commerce. In 2018, a 23-kilometer mountain road costing about 15 million yuan ($2.1 million) was constructed, connecting Shawa village to the outside world.

The road construction had a transformative effect on the village. Some residents relocated to a modern community at the base of the mountain, while others remained in the village, renovated their homes, and learned new agricultural practices with the help of specialists. They transitioned from panting low-yield crops like rice and corn to cultivating more profitable produce like strawberries, walnuts and kiwi.

"Rooting" offers an inspiring portrayal of the Nu people's successfully efforts to lift themselves out of poverty alongside showcasing the region's idyllic beauty and featuring more than 10 captivating Nu folk songs.

Sound designer Liu Hengzhi explained that the creative concept behind the film's extensive use of local folk music: "The Nujiang area of Yunnan is a treasure trove of ethnic music. We wanted to find music that would accurately convey the message of poverty alleviation and rural revitalization, and what better way to achieve this than to use local folk songs?"

The film has received positive reviews for its emotional depth and hopeful message, with Ning Qiwen, Party secretary, director, and chief editor of the China Agricultural Film and Television Center, which co-produced the film, emphasizing its significance as a model for rural poverty alleviation and prosperity in China. 

Villagers embrace their new lives after poverty alleviation. [Photo courtesy of Elemeet]

"The film is full of emotions – sadness, longing, compassion, hope and happiness. It is frequently deeply moving," added Robert Walker, emeritus fellow at Green Templeton College, Oxford University, and a professor at Beijing Normal University at the premiere. He praised the film's "enormous informational value" and highlighted the remarkable accomplishment of building the 23-kilometer road to connect the remote village to the outside world. Walker believes that the film genuinely showcases China's remarkable achievements in poverty alleviation and reduction and hopes that "everyone in the world should see it!"

"Rooting" is set for nationwide release on April 20 and will be screened at 100 universities and colleges across China, as well as in countries along the Belt and Road. The film's producers hope to inspire global efforts to reduce poverty by sharing Chinese wisdom and solutions.

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