Deadly-dull once was the word for traditional Chinese
documentaries, but the Discovery Channel is injecting a new spirit
of entertaining story telling in a country full of great yarns.
The 30-minute works of six young documentary film makers are
being aired on the Discovery Channel; the next showings are this
Friday and next Friday. Screening on local TV stations is expected
early in the year.
Their film projects were selected, funded and assisted by the
Discovery Channel, which gave expert advice to the young directors.
The pros from Discovery emphasize is on fun story telling and
"international" visual language that viewers everywhere can
Discovery's fourth annual First Time Film Maker China project
this year sought "Portraits of China" about ordinary yet
The past nine months have been spent in filming and production
of "The People's Dumpling," "Go Buddha Boys!" "Bugged," "Green
Greatwall of China," "Adili Skywalker" and "Photographing
"All provide an insight into dynamic modern China," said Chang
Fang, vice president of Discovery Networks Asia and general manager
Two have already been aired: "People's Dumpling" about "dumpling
king" Chen Shirong, a famous chef in Jiangsu Province near
Shanghai; and "Go Buddha Boys!" about Buddhist monk soccer players
and their nun cheerleading team.
Last Friday, the channel aired "Bugged" about an insect-obsessed
Beijing photographer and his friends and "Great Greenwall of China"
about Hexi Village in Hebei Province outside Beijing. Hexi is
thronged with tourists getting away from the capital and is
fighting to protect its environment. Even a pet "green dog" has
been trained to retrieve discarded plastic bottles for
Next Friday, viewers can watch "Adili Skywalker" about Xinjiang
acrobat and tightrope walker Adili Wuxiuer who crosses a rope
stretched 662 meters across cliff at a height of 687 meters.
They also can see "Photographing Shenzhen" about photographer Yu
Haibo who has recorded years of dramatic changes in Shenzhen,
China's first daring economic zone.
Chang from Discovery Networks Asia said the "Green Greatwall of
China" impressed the pros for the keen eye of director Yu Qiong.
She takes a look at environmental protection, a huge national
topic, through the "greening" of the tourist village of Hexi. The
quaint hamlet in the mountains wants to avoid the damage and even
destruction caused by rampant tourism.
"The residents there, many of them farmers, have far-sighted
wisdom," said Yu. "To my surprise, they show a strong awareness of
Mountain patrol volunteers clean up the environment and warn
tourists not to litter or damage the area. The village has
installed energy-saving street lights and adopted garbage sorting
and collection. Even the "green" canine collects bottles.
"Even if I prepared for a long time before shooting, there were
always surprises in store," Yu recalls. "I had to deal with some
unforeseen circumstances such as the weather and delayed
She said working with Discovery's experienced foreign producers
was rewarding. "They passed on to me some new concepts about making
documentaries, and advised me to make a full script before
shooting," Yu adds.
Jiang Ying, 27-year-old director of "Go Buddha Boys!," said the
experience will broaden her career. "I have learned many directing
and production tips, from budget control to setting the production
schedule," she said. "The veterans from Discovery never imposed
their ideas on us."
Ever since 2003, more than 20 young Chinese directors have been
discovered through Discovery's China project; their 24 films have
built an awareness of what China has to offer in terms of
creativity and stories.
Ten of them have been recognized at major international TV and
film awards, including the Asia Television Awards' "Best
Documentary" and "Best Director" in the short film category.
Next year Discovery plans 2008 Olympics-themed works, including
a look into the Bird's Nest, the signature building for the Beijing
Games, as well as China's "secret" athletic training programs,
"These first-time directors, who have become a significant new
force in China's documentary industry, will have more opportunities
to collaborate with us," he said.
(Shanghai Daily December 19, 2007)