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China's reform, opening-up has "million" stories to tell world: directors

September 21, 2018


Abstract : China's reform and opening-up has produced abundant stories the world will be interested in, and they need to be told well, said documentary directors and producers at a forum.

中国改革开放

BEIJING, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- China's reform and opening-up has produced abundant stories the world will be interested in, and they need to be told well, said documentary directors and producers at a forum.

They said this while attending the forum held on the sidelines of a media event to encourage documentary-making on China's reform and opening-up. The event was hosted by the State Council Information Office and undertaken by Chinese-language online search engine Chinaso.com.

"Over the past 40 years, the transformation of China and its accelerating pace of change has produced a wealth of fascinating stories," said Matthew Springford, executive producer at BBC Studios.

"For producers and directors, China is a thrilling place to be. It feels like the center of the world," he said.

Academy Award winning director Malcolm Clarke, who made the China-themed documentary "Better Angels" in 2016, said there are "a million stories we can tell" as the world needs to know the Chinese people today.

"Boldly show the world what China is," he said. "Those fears and suspicions would be replaced by admiration of everything China has achieved."

Clarke first came to China in the 1980s as a young director working for the American Broadcasting Corporation. He returned after more than three decades to find tremendous changes had taken place.

What impressed him most was the disappearing scenes of poverty.

Since the reform and opening-up, more than 700 million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty. The middle-income group has reached 400 million and continues to grow.

"That singular achievement is something China can be proud of. But does the world know about it? I doubt it," he said. Much more work needs to be done in closing the "information gap," and the focus should be placed on the people, especially ordinary people, he added.

In addition to poverty alleviation, scientific and technological innovation, arts, as well as the development of third-tier and fourth-tier Chinese cities are among the topics that interest directors at home and overseas.

"If we celebrate what we say ordinary is actually extraordinary...We could do a better job," Malcolm said.

Abram Sitzer, director of original content at Discovery Networks Asia Pacific, said for the world to understand China the key lies in why.

It is the country's vision and leadership that enabled China to achieve more than others, he said.

Tsinghua University professor Li Daokui challenged professors to sum up a couple of simple rules that underpin China's achievements through reform and opening-up.

Telling stories about China's reform and opening-up that convey these rules will help China send its messages and convince Western audiences, Li said.

In recent years, documentary co-production has been on the rise.

While teaching at Zhejiang Normal University, Hodan Osman Abdi was able to make a documentary last year featuring Africans in the city of Yiwu -- the celebrated marketplace for Made-in-China consumer goods in Zhejiang Province.

She said all the 24 Africans featured in the documentary are common people and the collaboration of Chinese and African crew managed to get the most from the interviewees and produce better quality content.

The Somali research fellow said the crew also makes the documentaries into short video clips and puts them on social media.

The rapid development of digital technology has provided convenience for documentaries to spread through multiple channels and perspectives, said Jin Zhongwei, editor-in-chief of Guancha.cn.

"Short videos that my colleagues and I made concerning China's reform and opening-up have been widely shared. It is unexpected," said Pan Xiaoli with the China Institute at Fudan University. "This shows that there is a need to understand China more."


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