With the completion of the Three Gorges Dam in 2009, 1.13 million people living along the Yangtze River have been dislocated. The majority of them are farmers. Bing’ai tells the story of one woman farmer who refused to move away from her village. The film offers an insight into her seven-year struggle with officials who pressure her to relocate, while a strong devotion to her land compels her to remain in the place she calls home.I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. I’m a great place for you to tell a story and let your users know a little more about you.
After 15 years of construction the Three Gorges Dam project was completed in 2009. Behind the reality of this hydroelectric project, supposedly the largest in the world, are a number of astounding figures, including the number of cities and counties that have been submerged, as well as the number of people who have had to be relocated.
Bing’ai resisted becoming one of the 1.13 million forced migrants cited in official statistics when she was told to leave by the village cadres, but never did. Named after her, the documentary is a chance to see how a lonely and helpless woman from the countryside fought against the authorities, refusing to leave in her reluctance to abandon her land. While Bing’ai reluctance to leave stems from practical reasons, her humility and simplicity are deeply moving, as is her attachment to her home, an earth which for her “can grow everything”.
The film does not focus solely on resistance, nor was it the intention of the filmmaker to do so. Following her instincts, Feng Yan stayed on the site and stood by the powerless in their struggle. The 1960s and 1970s Japanese documentary tradition of “standing with the people who are struggling” is a hallmark of this film, while at the same time the film is deeply rooted in the realities of life in contemporary China. While her quarrels with local cadres raged on, Bing’ai slowly began to open up to Feng Yan and offer her story for the camera. The film recounts Bing’ai’s life experiences in the form of a personal conversation between herself and the filmmaker, giving the work depth and a human touch. The film artfully captures Bing’ai’s determination and moral force in standing up to power, and at the same time portrays the melancholic beauty of a person struggling to preserve dignity in her life.
Of all the subjects I’ve had the chance to film, Zhang Bing’ai took the longest to warm up to me and reveal herself. We’d known each other for eight years before she confided to me the story of her life. When riding waters are about to submerge your house and you are burdened by the immense pressure to make final decisions, all the memories of a hard life come raging out like floodwaters breaking through a dam. I was caught in this riptide and I drifted, unable to move at all, enveloped in a story that I felt I had heard before and I shuddered for an instant with the feeling that I had touched her soul. As Bing’ai talked unhesitatingly to the camera in between her busy farm work and heated negotiations with officials, I understood how all her past choices and actions were based on her life experiences.
As I was editing Bing’ai, I came to realize that there were parallels between her story and the current situation, which, as fate would have it, fitted entirely with the order in which the scenes were shot. This coincidence led me to give up my unnecessary and seemingly trivial efforts to “compose” the film, and instead, to contemplate life’s richness and complexity which goes far beyond our imagination.
Ogawa Shinsuke Prize & Community Cinema Awards
Comments: This is a film that gently portrays Bing’ai, a friend of the director and the subject of the film. The film embodies the fundamental power of documentary filmmaking – the power to heal. We believe that this film follows the best advice offered to young filmmakers by the director Ogawa Shinsuke, after whom this award is named.
The Grand Prize at Punto de Vista, Spain
Humanitarian Award for Outstanding Documentary
Comments: This is a political story, a love story, and a powerfully feminist and humanist story of a woman who embodies fearless resistance and an immutable life force. The filmmaker’s dedication to her subject has resulted in a work of great power, fascinating detail, and rich subtlety.
The Grand Prix de la Compétition Internationale, Filmer A Tour Prix, Belgium
Silver Balloon Award as the Nantes Film Festival
Grand Award at the 4th Reel China Documentary Biennial
Feng Yan is a native of Tianjin. She graduated in the 1980s from the Tianjin Foreign Language College where she majored in Japanese literature. In 1988 she went to Japan to study environmental economics and lived there until 2002. In 1993 she attended the Yamagata documentary film festival where she first encountered the writings and films of Ogawa Shishuke. Later she translated Shishuke’s Harvesting Film into Chinese, which was published in Taiwan by Yuanliu Publishing House. During this same period she began making her own documentaries. In 1994 Feng Yan visited the Three Gorges area for the first time to do research and shoot her first film.
In 1997, she completed The Dream of the Yangtze River, which was showcased in Asian New Currents at the YIDFF that same year. In 2002 Feng Yan returned to the village where she worked and was deeply moved by the changes in the lives of people there. This time she focused on four women in the region and after five years one of the women’s stories was edited into a feature film, Bing’ai. The film took Feng Yan back to Yamagata where she won the Ogawa Shishuke prize. The film was also awarded the grand prix in the Punto De Vista (2008) in Spain. In 2007 Feng Yan revisited her characters to prepare for her next project: Women of the Yangtze River, in which she weaves together the stories of four women in the context of their relocation after the completion of the Three Gorges Dam. The result of ten years work, the film shows the changes in the lives people affected by the Dam, as well as their dreams and troubles.