Chinese Documentary Films: Home
Chinese Documentary Films
A large collection of Chinese documentary films is available in the UB Libraries’ Multimedia Center located on the 2nd floor of Silverman Library in Capen Hall. The documentaries, produced by contemporary Chinese filmmakers, present diverse perspectives on daily life in China and offer insight into the tumultuous social and cultural changes that have occurred in China during recent years. Many of the films feature English subtitles, and almost all were produced in the last decade.
The Libraries also offer access to two research databases, one on the Anti-Rightist Movement of 1957 and the other on the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976. These resources are distributed by the Chinese University Press of Hong Kong, which makes available material gathered by the renowned Universities Service Centre for China Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
The Transition Period = Dong yue
The party secretary at Gushi County Henan, Guo Yongchang, is leaving for another position. The film documents his final working days as the head of a county government.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003237804
Care & Love = Guan ai zhi jia
2008 (originally released in 2007)
Liu Xiaohong, a villager of Xingtai in Hebei, contracts HIV through a blood transfusion during childbirth, and this film documents the ways in which she publicizes her story, files a lawsuit with her 8-year old son against the hospital, and eventually receives compensation. Her case reflects the bitter experiences of other families faced with the same situation and the collective efforts of people living with HIV to defend their rights, resulting in the formation of the "Care Group."
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227830
Two Seasons = Liang ge ji jie
Everyone has experienced the middle school period; every family has to face secondary education issues. When faced with many never-ending problems, the teachers, parents and students all want to deal with these issues in their own ways.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003237799
Doctor Ma's Country Clinic = Ma dai fu de zhen suo
Huangyangchuan, Gansu province, is an arid mountain area with poor roads. Ma Bingcheng is a well-respected local doctor, with many patients (most of them farmers) who come to see him every day. In his small clinic, people chat with each other about their lives, local conditions or the people they know. The clinic is a microcosm for the conditions of typical Chinese farmers.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003237803
The 7th Medical Ward = Qi qu bing fang
The 7th Medical Ward in Xiamen accepts the poorest of the poor as well as sick and destitute mental patients who have no permanent address, no identity and no job. They are abandoned and then picked up by the police, ending up on the ward. Treatment is free, but without someone to accept responsibility for them and provide family support, they face an uphill battle.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003237801
Using = Longge
The film’s director, a journalist himself, meets a small group of people who, despite all odds, willingly invite him into their world of drug use and peddling. That's how "Using" was born. Starting out with no clear plan to make a documentary, the director uses his camera to record the course of the group members’ association with each other. Three years later, the film's key figure faces the death penalty for the crime of "transporting drugs," the kind of story found in big cities around the world. The relationship between a filmmaker and those portrayed in "Using" offers an answer.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227849
Train to My Hometown = Kai wang jia xiang de lie che dao yan Ai Xiaoming
In early 2008, when the Spring Festival was approaching, the Beijing-Guangzhou Railway, the major traffic line that links South, Central and North China, was interrupted suddenly, and many trains on this line were forced to stop indefinitely. This documentary presents the expectations of Guangdong's migrant workers, the good wishes of their relatives at home, the ice-snow disaster relief efforts made by the government, and shows how the police and the migrant workers endured the hardships together.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227855
Before the Flood = Yan mo.
For almost the entire year of 2007, the historic old town of Gongtan was devastated and its residents displaced, to prepare for the building of dams as part of a hydroelectric project on the Yangtze River.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003237806
My 1979 = Wo de 1979
The film focuses on the veterans of the Sino-Vietnamese Conflict in 1979, presenting the brutality and horror of the war. The veterans returned home with honor, thinking that the government would give them some compensation, but due to reforms and restructuring in China, they are unemployed and suffer the after-effects of war and aging.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003237797
Crime & Punishment = Zui yu fa
This film describes a police station in Dandong City, located on China's border with North Korea. It is much like any other small town Chinese police station, and the young policemen spend their days as representatives of the Chinese government, upholding the law, preserving the peace, and supervising the lives of the local residents. As they carry out their duties, the policemen encounter a motley group of characters.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003237761
The Epic of Central Plains = Zhong yuan ji shi
2007 (originally released in 2006)
In Henan Province, many people were forced to sell their blood because of poverty. Therefore, many innocent people were infected with the HIV virus during blood transfusions. This film reveals the lives of AIDS patients, contrasting the situation between corrupt officials and courageous villagers.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227836
One and Six = Yi ge he liu ge
The film documents the lives of young women in Beijing, depicting the women’s different views about their society and life in China, and raising the question of what kind of life they need.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003237782
Red Art = Hong se mei shu
This film reflects the development of poster art and examines how posters were used as propaganda during the Cultural Revolution, which started in 1966. The film features interviews with former painters, Red Guards, contemporary researchers, and collectors in China and abroad. It also demonstrates how folk art was transformed by the political campaigns, and records the artists' memories of this unusual period of history.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227832
Village Teachers = Xiang cun jiao shi zhi yuan zhe Fu xin xue xiao de xiang cun jiao yu shi yan
This documentary film introduces the first village school operated completely by volunteers. The school is located in Anhui Province.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227739
A Girl from Children's Village = Hafo nü hai
Yang's father was sent to prison when she was 13. The Children's Village, a shelter for children of criminals, took her in and provided her with basic education. However, Yang did not feel at home there. She hoped to one day leave the village and longed for that day to arrive. She also dreamed that she could study at Harvard someday. Yang managed to leave the Children's Village before reaching 18, yet just after celebrating her 18th birthday in the city, she suddenly vanished without notice. No one knew of her whereabouts. Director Hu tried to trace her with his camera, following clues that might lead him to her. Little by little, through this process, he was able to understand Yang's various choices in life.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003226576
Folk Song on the Plain = Ping yuan shang de shan ge
2006 (originally released in 2004)
Luo Xiaojia was abducted as a 17-year old girl and trafficked from Yi nationality in Yunnan to Shandong province, where she was forced to marry a young peasant. The film records her family life in Shandong and her longing for her distant hometown. Finally, after ten years in Shandong, she was allowed to go home for the first time. She travels the long journey to see her mother, and returns to Shandong accompanied by her mother's sad folk songs.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227835
Senior Year = Gao san
2006 (originally released in 2005)
This film records the experiences of a class of 18 and 19-year olds during their last year of high school. On the first day of their final year, the headmaster steps into the classroom and sees only eyes behind piles of books. There follows the endless mock preparatory drills, culminating in the final two days of real tests. After taking the National Exam for College Entrance, the students leave with tears in their eyes, and teacher Zhang welcomes another class of senior year students.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227833
This is Me = Wo zhe yang de ren
2006 (originally released in 2003)
The film portrays a group of Chengdu women who were designated as National Model Workers early in the era of The People’s Republic of China.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227732
Living on Nanjing Road = Nanjing lu
A group of floating migrants earn their living by collecting bottles along the affluent Nanjing Road in Shanghai. They are from all over China, without true names or social relations. They call one another after the names of their hometowns, and they make ends meet by collecting garbage, stealing, begging and singing. Moving on the fringes of society, these people gather in the alleys near Nanjing Road. In the hustle and bustle of life, some live hopefully and some happily, while others cannot bear the burden and go mad.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003226566
San Li Dong = Sanlidong
The son of a miner made this documentary film about his father and his father's friends who work in a coal mine.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003226570
The Old Man and the Lake
2006 (originally released in 1996)
The Long Lake embraces a green strip of hilly woods. A retired old man moves from town into the lake area, hoping to live a quiet, secluded life. Unfortunately, many people have discovered Long Lake. A highway is being built, and the area will be developed for tourism. The old man's quiet life is being destroyed in the process.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003226561
The Cormorant and the Lake: A Story About Man and Nature
2006 (originally released in 1998)
It is widely believed among the Bai ethnic group that as long as the beautiful Erhai Lake has existed, their ancestors have been raising cormorants to help them catch fish. Originally a wild animal, cormorants are now raised and trained by the local fishermen, generation after generation, and they have become both beloved pets and an important means of making a living. This film follows the life of fisherman Yang Lijin and relates the story of how he raises and trains cormorants with his wife, Li Liumei. The film also emphasizes the important role of traditional culture in protecting the environment.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227825
The Secret of My Success = Ling qi da she tou
2006 (originally released in 2002)
Birth control official Lü Guohua lives in the remote northeastern village of Fanshen, Jilin Province. Lü must take things into his own hands in 2001 when a pregnant woman, defying the one-child-family policy, disappears to avoid mandatory abortion. Because of this, his good relationship with the village head, Li Zhongqin, is broken. But it happens to be election year in the village, and a few tricks from Lü put an end to Li’s reelection to a new term in office.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003226746
The Sun in Winter = Dong ri
2006 (originally released in 2002)
With five years' observation experience, the director records the process of working toward local autonomy. The location is Dongpo Village, in the suburbs of Chengdu city, at a time when urbanization is underway and the formal Village Committee Organic Law is being implemented. This film focuses on specific rural people in China: how they participate in political life and how they run their villages.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227751
Alu and His Brother = Alu xiong di
2006 (originally released in 2002)
This film follows the Hani Nationality's deteriorating traditional way of life. As their terrace fields can no longer support them, Alu and many of his fellow villagers must leave home in search of a better livelihood elsewhere. They are trapped into working in a coal mine, and after many months of servitude, they flee to Kunming to try their luck. But Kunming has little to offer these uneducated and unskilled youth from the countryside.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003226560
2006 (originally released in 2005-2006)
The director's hometown is an ordinary village in Jiangxi Province. Village young people are leaving for the city and the director fears that his hometown will change dramatically. He records precious shots of the village in its four seasons, and then turns to the young people struggling in the city: their worries and joys and how they miss home. The film explores the meaning of hometown for those forced by the market economy to look for new opportunities in the city.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003226577
A Student Village = Xue sheng cun
2006 (originally released in 2002)
In a remote mountainous area of northwestern Yunan lies a small "student village" built by local people to allow their children to attend school. Students live near the school, studying, cooking and looking after themselves. This arrangement prevents them from having to travel impossible distances from isolated locations every day. The film tells their stories, demonstrating how determined the locals are in assuring a good education for their offspring.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227838
Master Ke and His Pupil = Ke shi he ta de di zi
2006 (originally released in 2002)
Traditional opera is well known in Fujian, and the role of female clowns (played by men) in Gaojia Opera is the most famous. This film records the last days of Master Ke Xianxi, one of the four most famous clowns in China, and his concern for the continuing existence and development of Gaojia Opera. The story illustrates the challenges that now face this traditional art form.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227853
Foggy Valley = Wu gu
2006 (originally released in 2004)
A TV crew goes to film the fantastic terraces in a poor mountainous area inhabited by minority nationalities. In need of a cow, the crew offers 10 RMB for it, but the locals ask for more. This story from Foggy Valley depicts the changes brought about by a market economy in the countryside and ethnic minority areas.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003226573
Father = Fu qin
2006 (originally released in 2005)
The director's father, Cao Chongen, is a famous sculpture artist. To celebrate the centenary of Deng Xiaopong, the director is assigned to a former revolutionary base in Guangxi Province to create a life-size sculpture of the young Deng Xiaoping. The contrast between the father's artistic ideals and present-day reality unfolds to the fullest in this film.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227736
Sexualities, Genders & Rights in Asia = Xing, Xing bie yu quan li dao yan Ai Xiaoming
The film documents the First International Conference of Asian Queer Studies: Sexualities, Genders & Rights in Asia, held in Bangkok, Thailand, July 2005.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227857
Garden in Heaven = Tian tang hua yuan
By tracing the case of Huang Jing, a female teacher and date rape murder victim, this documentary captures the evidence of change in China during the period 2003 to 2005, before and after the injunction to respect and protect human rights was written into the Constitution. The film illustrates awareness of human rights, women's struggle against judicial corruption, and women taking action to fight against domestic violence. Highlights the effort made by women at the grass roots level.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227743
Children of Blessing an Education in China = Shen you de hai zi
Professor Teng Xing is a Beijing-based anthropologist and former Fulbright scholar at UC Berkeley. He has studied the Lahu for over 20 years, and believes the best way to modernize the Lahu is to teach their daughters Chinese so they can enter mainstream Chinese society and lead their people forward. In 2001, with Ford Foundation support, Teng Xing built a boarding school for 46 girls in the Lahu hills.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003226556
Taishi Village = Taishi Cun
This film follows the efforts of villagers of Tai Shi, in suburban Guangzhou, who tried to remove appointed local officials in 2005. The villagers suspected that their land had been illegally confiscated by the local authorities. Shot under dangerous conditions, the film vividly reflects the growing number of serious conflicts in rural China.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003237790
In Search of Lin Zhao's Soul = Xun zhao Lin Zhao de ling hun dao yan Hu Jie
Lin Zhao, a Christian and a student at Beijing University, grew from a pure, loyal follower into a valiant fighter against the Red Terror. She was imprisoned for eight years and then killed, but left thousands of words written in her own blood to expose the absurdity and cruelty of those days.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227846
San Yuan Li = Sanyuanli
2003 (originally released in 1996)
This film explores Sanyuanli, a typical village in the city of Guangzhou. The focus is on the burden of history, and the clash between modernization and the local culture known as Ling Nan Zong Fa. The film, a poem written in black and white images, also shows the unique village architecture as well as sites of historic interest.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003226569
Under the Skyscraper = Gao lou xia mian
A documentary film produced by Du Haibin about Guo Bin from Chengde City of Hebei Province and Liu Qingyi from Cangxi County of Sichuan Province. Du Haibin met them in Beijing around 2000. Abin and Ayi both work for a property management corporation in Beijing, and this film explores their personal lives in Beijing, their homes located under a skyscraper, and their trips home. There is a sharp contrast between the scenes of the Beijing metropolitan area and the hometowns of Abin and Ayi, and also between the conditions above and below the skyscraper.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003237758
Houjie Township = Hou jie
During the 1980s, following a massive influx of Taiwanese and Hong Kong capital, the township of Houjie, near Guangzhou, was transformed from a rural village into an industrialized township. This film considers the precarious position of the migrant workers who built Houjie. They were the first victims of the post-September 11th economic slowdown, and their risk of being laid off remains.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227844
Basking in the Sun = Shai tai yang
Modern art is popular among young artists in China. Although discouraged by the government, young artists prefer to work in teams and groups, and in the 1980s, 200 artists mounted a contemporary painting exhibition near Xuanwa Lake, Nanjing. They called their exhibition “Basking in the Sun.” In 2003, under the same name, a large exhibition was mounted on Dajintang Island.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227856
Railroad of Hope = Xi wang zhi lü
Every year, during August and September, thousands of agricultural workers leave Sichuan for the long 3000 km train journey, lasting three days and two nights, towards Xingjiang Autonomous Region. Here, endless cotton fields await the harvest. For most of these workers, it's their first time away from their native villages, as well as their first time on a train. Perhaps for the first time ever, Chinese peasants from poor interior regions speak openly and sincerely about their lives.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003227858
Leave Me Alone = Wo bu yao ni guan
This film documents the lives of three Chinese teenage escort girls that the filmmaker lived with for several months.
Full record: https://catalog.lib.buffalo.edu/Record/003237754