A ChinaGeeks Original Documentary: Kedong County

A few months ago, I took a brief trip to China’s rural northeast. With the speed of China’s urbanization evident every day I passed in Beijing, I had begun to wonder what China’s rural villages looked like. Was it just opportunity drawing millions of migrant workers to China’s cities? Or was something pushing them out of the countryside, too? Here’s what we found:


(Viddler direct link)

If you enjoyed that, please consider helping us with our next project. We’d like to take a lot more time and make a film about the kidnapping and selling of children in China, and the ways those kids find their way home. The project is called Finding Home, and if you’re interested you can find out more information about it and make a pledge to help our project get off the ground. We would be very, very grateful!

(We’re accepting donations through Kickstarter, a rather unique website. Basically, we set a goal and a time limit. If we get pledges that total that amount or greater within the time limit, we get the funding. If we don’t, then all the people who pledged to donate their money can keep it. Making a pledge is easy; if you’ve bought something from Amazon before in your life, the process will be a breeze.)

Let us know your thoughts on Kedong County in the comments. And please, tell all your friends about it and about our next project!

0 thoughts on “A ChinaGeeks Original Documentary: Kedong County”

  1. Hey Custer (& co), great documentary. I really liked that Old Wu guy. Also pretty amused by how your look has changed since your rapping days! I’m evaluating my options on helping you out for your next project on kickstarter. I like that 2000 or more gets me anything I want, but I’m not sure if anything I want (that you could give me) is worth 2000. 😉 Will pledge something though. Rock on, buddy.


  2. Great documentary. I, too, liked Old Wu. I look forward to more of you guys’ work.

    In the meantime, can you post song credits please? It’s hard finding good Chinese music, so whenever I heard some I really try hard to learn more.


  3. Hey Joe,
    Yeah I meant to put those in the credits!

    Music Credits (in order of appearance):
    Aesop Rock- Forest Crunk
    Hanggai- Flowers
    Gorillaz- Hong Kong
    Hanggai- Me and My Banjo
    The Mountain Goats- Snow Owl
    Explosions in the Sky- Look into the Air
    The Mountain Goats- Snow Owl (again)
    Radiohead- Reckoner
    (credits song: Death Cab for Cutie- Grapevine Fires)
    (this is that really beautiful soft one)


  4. Awesome documentary. I was about to ask what the name of the first song but now I know. Didn’t know AESOP ROCK made instrumentals though.

    On the topic of agriculture, it’s given that farmers lead more challenging lives. But as the technology and population of China grow you would think that the lives of the farmers would be better. Watching this documentary makes me wonder if farmers gradually stop being farmers and work in the city, who is going to feed the people. My guess is that large food corporations/farms which is not mentioned in the video are doing very well in China. The good news for the independent farmers is that if China follows the path of the industrialized nations, it’s only a matter of time before the whole organic movement catches on. This will give the individual/independent farmers more incentives to farm provided that they take the risk to put a premium to create better and higher quality foods.

    Finally good luck and looking forward your new project.


  5. @lolz the first song is from Blockhead’s album “Music By Cavelight”

    Couldn’t watch much of the documentary though – for your next project I recommend a tripod. I really felt motion sick after the first few minutes.


  6. @ Steve T: No it’s not, it’s an Aesop Rock instrumental from his Daylight EP. It does sort of sound like something from Music By Cavelight, but it isn’t.

    And yeah, should have brought the tripod. Live and learn. I do like the intimacy of handheld, but admittedly there are some shots in here where it’s too much. We just didn’t have room for the tripod in our baggage, and this was mostly a recreational trip, so I just left it.


  7. @ LOLZ: Well, interestingly, “who is going to feed the people?” is the question we went into this documentary to ask. But everyone we talked to (who had farmed) thought it was ridiculous, and told us the problem was not that people didn’t want to farm, it was that they couldn’t find land to do it on. None of them were concerned about a lack of people willing to farm in the future. Apparently a good number of the migrant workers are working in cities out of necessity, not because it’s any better.

    This makes sense if you think about it. Farmers make between 10,000-20,000 RMB/year, generally speaking. The average migrant worker in Beijing makes 1,200 RMB/month. So the pay is about the same. But instead of living in the congested, polluted city and working year round, farmers live in the relatively open (although admittedly undeveloped) countryside, and get basically the entire winter off to sit on the kang, watch TV, and drink Baijiu. Who would choose to build apartments for rich people over that if they didn’t have to?


  8. I thought it was pretty well done. I like that the subtitles are very clear. I didn’t feel like the camera was that bouncy.

    The addition of some statistics on Kedong County, like demographics and such would have been beneficial. Also, how exactly did you decide upon Kedong for this project?


  9. An interesting topic; I really like the whole idea of your new project.

    Just a few thoughts on the Kedong film:

    I think you should try to conduct the interviews in a more subtle manner. You’re asking rhetorical questions in a very rough way. Just let the interview object talk. Listen to their stories instead of pushing a predestined narrative.

    It will offer a better and more nuances narrative, one which more based on what you find out when you are shooting, rather than what you already knew.

    Keep up the good work, guys.


  10. @ Andre: We will. We were pressed here for time, and we switched interviewers at the last minute so the lady asking questions didn’t have any real training in how to do it. But for Finding Home, we will be sitting down with these people for extended interviews, and doing that multiple times, so it won’t be anything like the way some of the interviews are in this piece.

    As for the narrative, you hit the nail on the head there too. A lot of the problems with Kedong County are because we came in asking a question that turned out to be kind of dumb, it wasn’t a problem at all, so we had to scramble to shift the narrative and the focus. With Finding Home, we’re doing a ton of research beforehand, and we’ll be shooting people for a MUCH longer period of time, so we’ll be able to avoid that problem. 🙂


  11. Sorry to be a little off-topic here, but did you say in the video that you spent 30 years of your life in China?! You look quite young… did you grow up there? I guess that would explain your great Chinese!


  12. Listen again, at 1:09 you say “[…]in China where I lived for almost 30 years now”

    English not being my first language, I might have misunderstood, but it seems pretty clear!


  13. Well, the problem is that I didn’t pause long enough. The sentence should read like this:

    “In China, where I live, for almost thirty years…”

    but I didn’t put in the correct pause when speaking, so it sounds like this:

    “In China, where I lived for almost thirty years…”

    Note to English students: This is why comma placement is important! Anyway, I should have paused for longer in the video. Sorry about the confusion.


  14. Hey enjoyed the documentary, am thinking of filming in China too, did you encounter any difficulties with Chinese authorities during your project?

    Thanks, Alasdair


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