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Yiwu city in the documentary Umbrella

Source: Yiwu sourcing agent    Author: Gary      Date: 2008-03-06

What becomes of the rural Chinese, who rush to be sheltered by the vast umbrella of the country’s newfound economic prosperity? It is a question Du Haibin raises in his latest documentary Umbrella, which garnered massive applause at the end of its first press screening .

The film, screened in the competition section for the Horizon Documentary Prize at this year’s Venice Film Festival, takes the umbrella as its metaphor, following five groups of people living in various regions of rural China .

“For quite a long time I‘ve wanted to make a documentary that faithfully portrays life in contemporary rural Chinese society. This idea originated from my personal feeling,” Du says .

Farming, the means of subsistence for most of the Chinese since ancient times ,now moves into an unfamiliar frontier . As cities experience rapid change bringing increased wealth, Du found that in the countryside ,the situation is just the opposite Umbrella explores the for reaching trails of farmers who relocate to the fastest-growing zones at this time of social change .Some leave their home town to work in factories in big cities making umbrellas for a few dollars ;others turn to selling umbrellas and become rich overnight .”From five regions we picked five groups of people , ” said Du .

“With the portrayal of their living conditions, I try to tear apart the apparent economic prosperity and expose the embarrassing reality in rural China . “I try to show how peasants, China’s largest population group, are struggling to survive at this historic time. I try to portray the ordinary people caught up in this society ofopportunism,restlessness and vanity,”he says .

The film’s characters include young people coming from the countryside to work in a private factory in Guangdong, and a woman from Zhejiang Province who gave up peasant life to become  a businesswoman in Yiwu, the booming small commodity center in the province. There are the rural college graduates at a Shanghai job fair, new army recruits, and old men who cling to the land and live under the mercy of Nature . The five sections seem connected, but are unrelated .

Du does not purport to have the answers to the dilemma facing the displaced people of globalization.

“But if we managed to get more people to see and ponder with us, including those caught up in the circums tance, then we would have succeeded.  “he says .Du has persevered in the difficult world of documentary filmmaking for nearly ten years, achieving fame and acclaim for Along the Railway( 2001) and Beautiful Men( 2005).

“I remember when I watched Robert J Flaherty’s Nanook of the North . I was so deeply moved by it . Documentaries give me more freedom than a feature film would,” he says. “I feel a responsibility to record people’s lives fairly and objectively during these times of change. I ‘m glad that through my work I can experience different kinds of life. This is important to me, to my life . Every time I re-watch my work it feels like re-reading some very old books . Very special . “Du started his documentary career after graduating in photography from the Beijing Film Academy. He continues to produce documentaries each year, though them edium attracts little financial backing. In 2005 his fifth documentary, Beautiful Men ,received the prestigious Best Documentary award at the Pusan I nternational Film Festival, and was screened at a number of art house cinemas .

“Communicating with the people I shoot is not a difficulty for me. The biggest difficulty is how to keep challenging myself . When I film a documentary, I cut myself off from the outer world . I eat, drink and live with my subjects. I disappear,” the director says. “At first my family couldn’t understand what I was doing. My work is not for fame or wealth. Whether my work is shown at home or abroad , documentary audiences arealways small. But I think the world needs serious films that cause people to reflect on their society. “

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