Keeping Watch By Camera

梁碧波纪录片名人工作坊 央视网 2012年01月31日 15:07 A-A+ 二维码


Be part of something of big 

In recent years, The Three Gorges Project is one of the largest irrigation works in China.  Chinese government plans to invest 203.9 billion Yuan (US$24.65 billion) to build a dame on the Yangtze River. Construction began in 1994 and is scheduled to take 20 years. If completed, the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River will be the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. The dam would stretch nearly a mile across and tower 575 feet above the world's third longest river. Its reservoir would stretch over 350 miles upstream and force the displacement of close to 1.2 million people, most of them are rural people who are living in tough conditions. It is seen as an important future source of energy for China's growing electrical consumption. It is also expected to tame the fabled Yangtze River too.

The Three Gorges’ area has the history of more than 5000 years, archeologists have identified at least 1000 sites of cultural relics will be flooded. To them, it’s their duty to protect those precious relics, some of them even strongly oppose this project. And because the stored water would also inundate many fields, from the year 1992 to 2009, 1.2 million people have been moved to foreign land. Their homeland lived from generation to generation can only be found under the water. To them, it’s a very important turning point in their life. Some people feel happy for the move, others feel very sad because they don’t want to leave. I also have the same contradictory feelings as those people, because I have lived along the tributaries of the Yangtze River for more than 30 years. My hometown is in Sichuan province, and The Three Gorges Project is in Sichuan province too. This big change will also influence my friends, my family and my town fellow’s daily life. These complicated situations make me feel very excited; I can even smell the coming big event. This is a chance once in a blue moon, as a documentary filmmaker, my first idea is to record changes of The Three Gorges by my camera.

Fortunately, On February 2003, Mr.Xiao Tongqing, my friend working for the China central TV  (CCTV) said, he planed to film a documentary film series about The Three Gorges project. He called me and asked me whether I want to be one of the directors. I replied him directly, “Why not? ” Actually, I almost yielded to unexpected impulse to film at once.

Loaded down with details                                       

This documentary film series are mainly produced by China Central TV station (CCTV). The filming crew consists of 25 people, 22 people from CCTV, the other 3 from Chengdu Economic TV station (CDETV) where I am working.

On March 4, 2003, all those people are divided into five groups, each one consists of five people and we are distributed over the different places along the Yangtze River. I traveled all the important towns﹑villages and mountains of the Three Georges’ area; worked with local governments﹑media and immigration commit; talked with officials﹑journalists and workers and never lose any chance to make friends with boatmen and vagrants. This investigation last a month, more than 100 people receive my interview. Every group collected some touching stories. Then we all came back to Beijing, the capital of the China, discussed what we saw and heard during our trip. After heated argument, some interesting storied was settled. I defined our film’s subject. That is to film the local common people, to see how the Three Gorges Project change their life, how they react when they facing this big challenge and what they think about this project. And we named it KEEPING WATCH ON THE THREE GORGES.

This documentary film is a 9 episodes serial. I shoot 3 episodes of it in person. It consist two small films called IN RUINS and ROOT. IN RUINS lasts 60 minutes and ROOT lasts 30 minutes. I perform multiple roles as director, cameraman, scriptwriter and editor. At the same time, I have to supervise other groups’ filming course by daily phone call and e-mail. I finished the whole shooting in 40 days, and the postproduction last 2 months.

Originally, we planed to do postproduction in CCTV in Beijing. So I stayed there for a week, and cut some part of it. Soon, the working environment became worse because whispers about the SARS epidemic started to circulate. Later, I suddenly found out that everyone around me began to wear gauze masks, someone even burned joss sticks in studio! What’s a disordered situation! I decided to do my postproduction work in chengdu, left this horrified white world as soon as possible. So I fled with all my raw materials. But other groups had to stay in beijing because they all came form CCTV.

During this period, every city in china became an isolated one, I could only connect with other groups left in Beijing by daily phone call and e-mail. After they finished their work, they would mail their film to me, and revised it according to my opinion. At the same time, I came to Guang’an City twice because I were planning another film called COMMEMORATIONS. It’s a film about our great leader---- Deng Xiaoping.

After I finished the whole film, the news channel of CCTV broadcasted it to Chinese people all over the China in August and the international channel of CCTV rebroadcast it in November to the audience of the whole world.

The two documentary films produced by me are as followings:
In ruins
It is estimated that thousands of relics and over 800 sites of local culture will be submerged by the building of the Three Gorges dam. Also, the Three Gorges project will submerge some of China's most famous historical scenery and tourist sites, the subject of a multitude of paintings, poems and old architectures. China has made a plan for preserving major historical sites in the Three Gorges, but that’s is not enough, experts say there are still many difficulties related to relics protection to be tackled. Some argue that the time limit restricts most of the archaeological work on excavation and leaves no time for research. In order to save the most important cultural relics before the first-stage water storage of the Three Gorges Dam in June 1st, 2003, numerous voluntary people take part in. Among all those volunteers is our film hero: Guilin Zhao.

Guilin Zhao was born in Fengjie County. Fengjie is situated at the foot of Kuimen, ----the gateway of the Three Gorges, it has more than 2000 years of history. Because many poets living here early or late, this county is well known as a poem city. In history, Fengjie has been moved several times. Because the main architectures in the county are all under the 135 meters water level of the Three Gorges’ reservoir, this town will be removed again. Over 100 thousands residents living in the county town began to move to the new one in large scale which is 8 kilometers away from here. Most buildings in the old town will be demolished before the end of 2002.

Watching the old town pulled down day by day, Zhao greatly regrets. At this moment, he has an idea to buy would-be demolished old buildings, and then build a folk-custom museum. This will cost 1.5 million Yuan. Zhao haven’t so much money, he is planning to borrow some money from his relatives and friends. If it’s not enough, he will get a bank loan. All his friends think he is a little bit crazy.

One day, Zhao meet Jinlin Tao. Tao is a old-brick boss, he invests all his savings to hire a dozens of peasants nearby; asks them to dig old bricks in ruins, so he can sells bricks as waste. In order to save money, Zhao decide to buy old bricks sold by Tao to build museum, and he also requests Tao to collect old architectural components for him.

In Guilin Zhao’s option, besides exhibiting material objects, his museum will choose ten represent people of the Three Gorges each year, 58 years old Uncle Cao is one of them. Uncle Cao used to sleep in the streets for about seven years, his life is full of frustrations. When other people are moving out of the old town, Uncle Cao still live in ruins, he runs a teahouse in daytime and manages a small inn at night. All of his quests are poor people. 

On March 18th, 2003, Zhao’s poem city museum breaks ground. Zhao ﹑Tao and Cao , those three people didn’t know each other before The Three Gorges Project , but as it happens, their daily life is connected tightly because of the museum. They live beside the ruins, work in the ruins, and all our stories happens in the ruins ……


Since the year 2000, there is massive move and relocation in wulin town. When the Three Gorges project’s second stage water level arrives 135 meters, the water level backs here is about 150 meters, all the land under it will soon be inundated. By using different ways such as agriculture relocation, non-local relocation and self-sufficiency relocation specialized in abandoning land and finding one’s own means of livelihood, the town government moves out more than 8000 people living under the second stage water level.

Qiming Tan, a farmer, was relocated to be a farmer in the Wawu village nearby last year. But after he had gone through all the formalities, his father and wife died one after another, only left him a blind mother and a three years old son. Since then, Tan has changed his idea, he requires to be engaged in self-sufficiency relocation, so he can receive more money from government. But his condition is not accord with the policy, so the staffs of the immigration office feel very embarrassed.

Shengzhu Dong, a farmer also, is Tan’s neighbor. His family is very poor, so he never marries in his life. In 1999, the government helped him to settle down in the home for the old. But Dong missed country life in his hometown, he only stayed there for several months and then fled back. Dong’s home is just 0.5 meters higher than the second stage water lever. Although his house is not included in the move agenda, when the water really rises, this house beside the river is also very dangerous.

Time passes away day by day, two families of Dong and Tan still don’t move out, the pressure of town head Tan is stronger and stronger. He sends many immigration cadres to yu’an village everyday, try to work on Dong and Tan.

After immigration cadres and village cadres ’continual persuasion, at last, Dong and Tan have to leave their homeland lived generation by generation.

My original intention for those two films

IN RUINS is about the largest-scale rescue of cultural heritage in Chinese history. People were in the Three Gorges area 100,000 years ago, they left rich and colorful culture of this area. Many believe archaeology at Three Gorges is a long process, much longer than the construction period of the Dam. Losing Chinese Culture is one of the major drawbacks to the Chinese government’s plan for Three Gorges Dam. It will result in the loss of countless Chinese antiquities, irreplaceable works of art and architecture.
The other big problem concerned by me is relocation. The former Premier Zhu Rongji used to call for strengthened measures to relocate residents of the Three Gorges area, calling the resettlement a make-or-break point for the dam project. So the success of The Three Gorges Project depends on the success of the relocation.

I highlight the human relocation as key priorities that need to be addressed, and equally important is the preservation of cultural relics around the dam areas. Because human and culture are irreplaceable treasures for us. But, facing these big changes, everyone can’t go against the stream. The only thing we can do is to adjust ourselves to adapt this world, not to adjust the world to adapt ourselves. As a journalist working on documentary, my support is to shoot a living history to commemorate this changing situation. So, after a century, our descendants will know what has happened in this field.



  • 央视纪录片
  • BBC 专场
  • 美国国家地理专场

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