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梁碧波纪录片名人工作坊 央视网 2012年01月31日 15:19 A-A+ 二维码
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Documentary MARRIAGE (30’) was broadcasted on the No.1 channel (News Channel), No.4 channel (International Channel) and No.9 channel (English Channel) of China Central Television CCTV in September 2003, but I started to shoot it in 1997.

 

The headstream of my documentary film MARRIAGE originated from an unexpected encounter with a French young lady in early 1997. At that time, I was attending FIPA (Festival International de Programmes Audiovisuels) in Biarritz, France. She asked me if China's young generation still has no right to choose whom they want to marry and whether a decision still has to be made by their parents. I was shocked because things are not like what she thought. Now, the young people there had already enjoyed the freedom to choose their own spouse. During the following days, I met with more foreign counterparts and talked more with them, I gradually understood why she would ask such question, because west people knew little about China as well as their marriage. Therefore I was determined to make a documentary on this topic.


* * *


As soon as I came back from France, I began to search for a story about marriage. Although I had no idea what to shoot and where to shoot, I had an instinct that this story must hidden in the mountains or somewhere in the rural place. Because in China, almost 800 million people are farmers or peasants, marriage plays an important role in their life. What’s more, the Chinese rural family life appears familiar to me.

 

Things soon had it’s own result with any troubles. After I had hunted around in the southwest of China for about a month, I finally found out a suitable story the depths of the mountains in December 1996. It was a village that located on the southern part of Qinling Mountain. There were 6 families living in there, although young people had their right to find their lover, they still preferred to follow the traditional marriage custom. At that time, there were two couples preparing for marriage. One pair, whose name is Jian and Qiong, would take a common way that the woman lives with the family of her husband after getting married. But the other pair----Yu and Zhong would do the opposite by living with the family of the wife. This story really attracted me.

 

I found local people adhere to a marriage custom that involves seven procedures. According to sociologists, the tradition came into being in the Han Dynasty more than 2,000 years ago. It has been popular around the country since then. However these days, the traditional style can only be witnessed in the countryside. And due to the vast expanse and long history of Chinese marriage customs and ceremonies, the practice is simplified in some other places.

 

But the seven-procedure custom is still well preserved in this village. Although they have freedom to marry anyone they love, they still have to follow the traditional marriage customs handed down through generations.

 

The first step is to propose. After a pair of lovers report to their parents about their plan to get married, the two families will locate a matchmaker who will formally present his or her clients' request to each side. If the two families do not object to the marriage, then comes the second step.

During the second step, the young lovers will go to visit each other’s the parents with their matchmaker.


Upon the approval of the couple's parents, they move onto the third step. Leading by the matchmaker, boy has to invite girl’s main relatives to have a drink in girl’s home. The banquet functions as a public announcement, telling everybody that they're going to marry.


Then the parents of the girl and boy will meet under the arrangement of the matchmaker, discussing all the details of the marriage. At the same time, parents of the both families need to invite all villagers to drink again, that means that their parents have already admit this marriage.


Afterwards comes the fifth step that is as important as the marriage certificate in the eyes of the villagers. In this step, the matchmaker will officially ask for the girl's birthday paper. After this procedure, no one can change his or her marriage. If the girl changes her mind, she has to return back all the money given by the boy. If the boy cancels his wedding, he has no right to ask back his money. So everybody regard this step as a vital one.


After this, the two sides will further discuss when the wedding ceremony is to be held. They will send this couple’s birthday paper to a fortune-teller’s place, ask him to choose a suitable wedding day for the lovers.


And finally, the couple will come to the end of the seven procedures, the wedding ceremony. The bridegroom’s family members, as well as their relatives and friends, will carry dozens of betrothal gifts to girl’s home and escorted the bride to wedding .In order to thank their matchmaker running around here and there for them, they will give him four legs of pork.

 

Actually, each of the seven steps is a negotiation presided by the matchmaker. In China's rural area, manpower is very important, no matter whether it's the wife who comes to live with her husband's family or the husband comes to live with his wife's, this family will lose a member of its labor force. Therefore, their family deserves compensation. And that compensation is paid step by step in each of the seven procedures. So during each step, their parents need to meet, discuss and bargain.


       * * *


I decide to shoot this subject. In my mind, if I shoot this marriage with the seven-procedure custom from the sociology point of view, I can not only record this traditional cultural, but also record human being’s daily life and their inner world in the rural area. Usually, life in countryside is very peaceful and slow, and the peasants are all reserved and timid. In some degree, only marriage could stimulate their passions, reflect their inner world. If we use the marriage as a clue and use the matchmaker as a bridge, we can easily touch their heart.

 

* * *


The production lasted 6 years. We not only shot the whole procedure from marriage proposal to the wedding day, but also recorded their life after marriage. The crew included 3 people: my assistant, the sound engineer and I. We lived here for more than one year from 1997 to 1998, and came back again 6 years later.

Things didn’t go smoothly when we arrived in that small village, although the matchmaker Xinxi Zhang warmly received us and allowed us to live in his home, the villagers refused to cooperate. Our hero ---- Jian’s parents felt a little bit embarrassed, they were afraid that other villagers would criticize them and suspect them receiving any money from us. Our heroine----Qiong’s parents put forward their requirements directly, in a word, they ask for money to compensate their loses. Under such conditions, we had to be friends with the locals. I had an idea to cook some dumplings in matchmaker’s house, and gave each family of this village a bowl of dumplings as a gift. Dumplings really worked out, after eating our food, the villagers soon reached an agreement: Bibo was a good guy, we should allow him to shoot his film here. In addition to local cadres’ persuading, we finally moved to Jian’s home and started our work.

 

In that winter, for that bowl of dumplings, every family in this village invited us to have dinner with them, which let me feel very warm. As time went by, the villagers and I became close friends, it let us have a smooth and happy working environment.


 * * *


The Ridge of Qinlin Mountain separated two places: Lixian slope and Xinshu slope, it also separated two lovers----Jian and Qiong. But they knew each other very well, because they herded cows here from their childhood. Qiong’s former boyfriend fell from the steep cliff when herding, this let Qiong feel very sad, she never made any boyfriend until she met Jian. Jian was the youngest son of his family, he always freed from all anxieties. Until now, he still looked like a small child. Since he made friends with Qiong, he could hardly stayed at Lianxian slope, unconsciously, he would disappeared from this world. It was said, he was just hidden in the mountains, and he had appointment with Qiong. We used to entreat him piteously, asked him to shoot some footage about their date. We even threatened him, if he didn’t allow us to shoot, we would hide a German Hi-Fi stereo microphone under your marriage bed. In several times, he consented my request, but until the wedding ended, he never gave any chance to us.

 

Yu’s wedding room was built when she was 11 years old, but it hadn’t finished until we came to their home. Her father’s eyes were not good enough and her brother was too young, so her family planned to marry a son-in-law living in their home. With the help of matchmaker----Zhang’s help, Zhong Zhao’s father agreed because there were many brothers in Zhao’s family. Lixian slope was about 10 miles far from the Zhaojiaya where Zhao’s living. So Yu and Zhong seldom had any chance to see each other. Every time Yu came to Zhong’s home, she would go with her father and the matchmaker. When adult talked to each other happily, Yu and Zhong would work in the fields at the back of a mountain. Yu was cheerful and vivacious, Zhong was veridical and sincere, and Zhong was always beaten and clutched by Yu. We had seen them exchange glances and chatter and joke together crazily, but hadn’t shot any footage. Just like Jian , they never gave any chance to us to shoot them staying together. They were laughing and joking when they talked with us, but once I jacked up my camera, Yu rapidly run away as a rabbit, only her laughter flied to the sky, ringing like a jingle bell.

 

When the adults talked to each other, the main topic was still the money. In the beginning, I was astonished that two relatives by marriage could even negotiate to each other in such an occasion. Actually, they really negotiate in real earnest. “ 50 kilogram wheat, 20 kilogram wine, 20 kilogram meat, 10 suits of clothes, 6 pair of shoes ……” while their parents negotiated, the would-be bride and bridegroom were listening beside them. Such negotiation was shot several times by me. We used to longer for the young generation starting an uprising, opposing their parent’s bargain, or fighting against their parent’s control about marriage. ---- “It’s our marriage, what’s your business? Or “ marriage is marriage, what’s your fucking tricks do your employ?” However, after we stayed a while in this village, my colleagues and I were all shamed for this idea. It’s an unpractical thought of city dwellers. Deep into the mountains, in Lixian slope, without parent’s arrangement, Jian couldn’t have enough money to get married; without negotiation with Qiong’s father, Jian’s family had to pay more money. When every penny had to be dug from the field, when every penny had to be squeezed from your teeth, everything happened here were reasonable.

 

Was there any love in Lixian slope? I asked myself several times at that time. The answer was sure: love still existed here. Jian and Qiong fell in love to each other by themselves. When we stayed here, they dated everyday. Yu met Zhong by the introduction of matchmaker, but they also fell in love at first sight, their passion burned like flaming conflagration. Yu’s eyes were hot when she looked at Zhong. We were happy for their love. But like the wheat on the slope, when they faced rigorous reality, the prodution of their love was quite low.

 

When I came back chengdu, sociologist Dongshan Li borrowed me 8 books, in the following days, I read them up for about a year. At last, I draw my conclusion: no matter we are living in Lixian slope or Wangxian slope, marriage is business, it’s irrespective with love; marriage is the whole village’s business, it’s irrespective with either part of lovers. This is the characteristic of agricultural society’s marriage.


* * *


We lived in Lixian slope for more than a year until the two couples married at the beginning of 1998. After a year, those two couples had their own babies. At that time, I had already read all the books borrowed from professor Li, thus I had much deeper understanding about the marriage of Lixian slope and began to edit and cut my 4200 minutes raw materials. In summer, 1998, I finally finished this 80 minutes film called MARRIAGE. The most impressive thing happened in Florence, Italy. At that time, I was attending Festival dei Popoli. After screening my film, I customarily stood in front of the audience, preparing to answer their questions. One of the audiences stood up and said: “ In my hometown, people also marry just like this”. I asked him: “ Where is your hometown?” He said: “ Somewhere in the north of Italy.” 

 

* * *


At the end of 2002, according to the requirement of CCTV’s high officials, I came back Lixian slope again to shoot their current life. I wanted to mixed the new footages and the old one shot in 1997 and 1998 into a new film, so it can be broadcasted as one episode of CCTV’s new documentary film series TIME OF THE WEIGHT.

 

There’s desolate in winter, Yu’s new house looked very dilapidated. Matchmaker Zhang and Jian’s fathers were all white-headed. Yu -----the flying lark----had become gaunt and closemouthed countrywoman, she never had any energy to fly again.

 

After marriage, Jian and his wife lived apart from their parents, they still loved each other deeply. Only Qiong always quarreled with her mother in law, their relationship wasn’t good enough. In spring, 2000, our government required villagers to return the grain plots to forestry, the works in the fields became less and less. Jian and his wife left son to their parents, and went to work in Beijing just like other peasants. They only came back once a year.

 

 After Yu married Zhong, they still lived with Yu’s parents. in March, 2000, Yu’s father fell from trees, and paralyzed since then. Zhong’s father wasn’t good enough too, he relapsed and need to be taken care of. So Zhong had to came back his father’s home, he only met Yu occasionally. Now, Yu farmed the whole family’s field by herself, what’s more, she had to look after her daughter, younger brother, paralytic father and old mother.

 

When we left, there’s heavy fog in Lixian slope, only a white sun hanging in the sky.

 

                                                     

 

2003/11/12

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