Tag Archives: Documentary

In Brief: Speaking of Arrogance…

I haven’t the time or, at the moment, the patience to go into this in depth, but let’s look for a second at the trailer for the upcoming documentary Death By China and let its ridiculousness wash over you like a wave:

Now, with the huge caveat that I haven’t seen this film so it could just be a case of terrible (or overly sensationalized) marketing, this looks insane. What’s more, it projects that same I’m-the-center-of-the-world-arrogant-pride-thinly-disguised-as-victimhood that I recently took some Chinese media to task for. This is probably not surprising — for all their differences, I think America and China are similar in many ways, one of those being a deep-seated belief that they are better than everyone else. But come on, guys. Everything about this is absurd and hypocritical.

For example, the Gordon Chang money quote here — “China is the only major nation on earth preparing to kill Americans” — is both extreme scaremongering and ludicrous arrogance. Yes, China is boosting its military capabilities across the board. Is there any evidence this is with the goal of killing Americans? No. China’s military will protect its strategic interests, and while that could include killing Americans who are in the way, Chang’s phrasing makes it sound like China is raising an army that’s going to parachute into the US, Red Dawn-style, and shoot your grandmother.

That isn’t going to happen, and it doesn’t even make any goddamn sense. Why would China want to destroy one of its major trade partners? Moreover, why would China want to destroy a country that owes it so much money? It wouldn’t. China doesn’t want to kill Americans, it just wants them to shut up about the South China Sea and stop selling weapons to Taiwan. Since neither of those things are likely to happen, some eventual violence is certainly possible, but let’s not pretend China is planning Pearl Harbor here.

The discussion of jobs in the trailer is even more ludicrous because it leaves out a gigantic, hugely important facet of that issue: the companies shipping these jobs overseas are American. It’s true some Chinese manufacturers are beating with American workers in part because they’re willing to abuse their own workers (although the fact that many of these workers are, by American standards, willing to abuse themselves is also a relevant point). But if China is taking American jobs via workers rights abuses, what does that say about the American companies that are willingly choosing to ship jobs there anyway?

It is not my intent to defend the labor practices of Chinese manufacturers here, but that strikes me as a Chinese problem. American companies shipping jobs overseas to take advantage of abuses is a problem that could be resolved at home by holding companies to a higher (read: any) moral standard. But, of course, it’s easier just to blame all that on the Chinese.

This argument also ignores the fact that as far as cheap labor is concerned, if China isn’t willing to offer it, some other country will be (and is). Abuse of workers is one problem, but another is that Americans are willing to see hundreds of thousands of jobs shipped overseas if it means they can save $20 on an iPhone.

(Note that I’m not even mentioning the absurd, over-the-top animations or the part where Americans, with a straight face, appear to be criticizing someone else about carbon emissions.)

Anyway, I don’t really have the energy to go into this further, and it would be unfair of me to do a proper shredding before I see the actual movie, anyway. But if this trailer is any indication, Death By China looks like it’s going to make the Red Dawn remake look like a tasteful, nuanced look at US-Asia relations.

Announcing “Living with Dead Hearts”

UPDATE: I didn’t expect this to happen so soon, but Foreign Policy has published a freelance article I wrote on the problem of kidnapped children in China. I think it’s a good primer on the issue in general and some of our subjects in specific. You can check it out here.

Longtime readers of the site have probably been aware for some time that some of the folks behind ChinaGeeks have also been working on a documentary for the past year or so. Today, I want to share with you a bunch of new information about that work.

We’re still in the process of shooting it, but we’re a lot further on than we were the last time I updated you here. The film now has an official title — Living with Dead Hearts: The Search for China’s Kidnapped Children — and we’ve even put together an early trailer which you can watch below to get more of a feel for what it’s going to be like when it’s finished (the trailer starts at about 0:30).

As you can see, we’re raising money again to help us continue production, and also to help out our friends at the Xinxing Aid center. We’re raising the money ourselves this time through Paypal so that we can give 20% of it to Xinxing rather than using Kickstarter and having to fork over a percentage to them and to Amazon payments. We’re looking to raise about $4,000.

We’ve got a new website for the film set up at www.livingwithdeadhearts.com but I thought I’d also lay out a little but of information for you here. We may not be using Kickstarter, but we will be running things the same way they do, in that donors can choose how much they donate and are eligible for rewards based on their donation (you can also opt out if you don’t want the rewards).

    • Donate $1 or more: Your name goes in the end credits of the film and you get access to exclusive donor-only content like desktop wallpapers.
    • Donate $15 or more: All the above, plus access to our monthly production updates via email.
    • Donate $30 or more: All the above, plus access to production stills.
    • Donate $50 or more: All the above, plus access to exclusive video clips and a DVD copy of the finished film once it’s done.
    • Donate $100 or more: All the above but now the DVD is signed and accompanied by a personal thank you letter from the director.
    • Donate $250 or more: All the above, plus contact our producers to ask your own questions to our interview subjects and get their responses translated for you.
    • Donate $500 or more: All the above, plus you’re listed as an Executive Producer and an invitation to one free dinner with the director the next time you’re in Beijing.
    • Donate $750 or more: All the above, plus personalized updates on the film’s progress straight from the director, who you can also chat with on Skype about the film’s progress.
    • Donate $1000 or more: All the above, plus exclusive early access to the finished film and the chance to record an audio commentary for the soundtrack.
    • Donate $2000 or more: You are incredible. You get everything listed above, and anything else you can think of that we can feasibly provide. Talk to us about how we can make you a part of the film.

    Some pretty cool stuff, no? Hey, how did this button get here…

    You may recall we did this last year, and were pretty successful, so it’s quite reasonable to be wondering why we have to do it again. The main reason is that my computer simply isn’t going to be able up to the task of editing hours and hours of HD video. A dual-core processor and 2 GB of RAM would be pretty suspect specs under the best of circumstances, but of late it’s also been corrupting files and has outright stopped recognizing the AVCHD files that make up about half of our footage. Probably there is some kind of software fix for that, but given that the battery, power cord and optical drive are all broken, it seems like a better idea to buy a new computer so we can do our work on a system that’s reliable.

    Additionally, we’re having to travel quite a bit more than we originally expected, and travel is costing more because in several cities we’re being forced to stay in three-star hotels because the cheaper hotels aren’t willing to book a foreigner, which we hadn’t anticipated because it’s never been an issue for me before.

    Of course, there’s much more to say, and you may have questions; there are lots more details on the official site so go check that out. I’ve also created a special section of ChinaGeeks dedicated to the film and the problem of kidnapped children; you can check that out here.

    Anyway, if you enjoy ChinaGeeks I hope you’ll consider making a donation. If you can’t make a donation, I hope you’ll at least consider passing the link around to your friends and family or tweeting it to your followers on Twitter and Weibo. Even if you’re not willing to do any of that, keep an eye out for the film which we’re hoping to have finished by late 2012.

Two China Documentaries to Support

Many of you know that I’m currently working on my own documentary with the ChinaGeeks team. Some of you even gave me money (but we spent it all already, and need more)! Anyway, mine is not the only cool documentary project around. In fact, here are two that are cooler and more professional than my own. At the very least, take the time to check them out, and if you like them, pony up a little cash to show support!

(Note: the text below is copied from the projects’ respective Kickstarter pages).

UPDATE:
Never mind about that first one!

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Two years, seven countries and eleven cities later, I know Ai Weiwei. He is the ultimate prankster: simultaneously an international art star and a “dissident artist” in the Western press, with tens of thousands of Chinese netizens following him online and the government keeping almost constant tabs on him.

I have over 200 hours of footage (some of it viewable here) that includes never-before-seen interviews with Weiwei’s family, friends and fellow artists, and chronicles his preparation for major museum shows at the Haus der Kunst and Tate Modern, and a public sculpture work for New York’s Central Park. The two years I spent filming him really mark his rise to international renown, both for his art and his online activism. He is probably the fiercest and loudest internal critic of China, yet somehow he is not in jail. ((This is from her original pitch; obviously, there’s also an update about Ai Weiwei’s current situation.))

Weiwei’s story is extraordinary, but I need your help bringing it to the world.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/alisonklayman/ai-weiwei-never-sorry?ref=spotlight

Comments

These both look like really cool projects, so please check them out! I have only copied parts of their pitches here, so check out their Kickstarter pages for the full deal and the rewards you can get for donating.

Note: I am opening the comments in this post so that people can express their support for these cool projects. OFF TOPIC COMMENTS WILL BE DELETED. Please read that sentence a couple times before you hit “Post comment.”

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:

http://www.viddler.com/player/31eb0c61/

(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!