Documenting China: An Afternoon with Filmmaker Fan Jian

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Film Screening and Discussion with Director FAN Jian

Thursday, May 4, 2017
1:00 PM - 3:45 PM
Melnitz Hall 1422 - Darren Star Screening Room

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1:00 Reception
1:30 Screening of STILL TOMORROW
3:00 Fan Jian in Dialogue with Michael Berry (UCLA, Asian Languages & Cultures)



Directed by FAN Jian
A YOUKU Production
88mins / HD / COLOR / CHINA

A woman farmer in rural China rises to fame
in the most unlikely fashion- through poetry.
Her words are inspiring,
but her own life reveals myriad challenges and despair.
Can she rise through it all to find balance and true happiness?


A village woman, despite not having finished her high school education, has become China’s most famous poet in 2015. Her book of poetry has become the most widely distributed and sold poetry book in China for the past 20 years.

This poet is YU Xiuhua, a 39 year old woman living in a remote village in the middle of inland China. Though she has a bright mind, she walks unsteadily and speaks unclearly because of her cerebral palsy. She wonders if she’d done something bad in a previous life to deserve the suffering she endures in her present life. Attending school was so difficult that she dropped out of high school. When she was 18 years old, her mother married her off to an old man with whom she has never connected. The relationship has become the biggest pain and source of regret in her life. 

Yu’s early life was marked by misfortune. Through her poems, she contemplates her fate: she writes about the human body, life, sex, and her yearning for true love.

Yu Xiuhua has been writing since childhood, but in late 2014 a small collection of her work was published and commented on on a popular website, and they went viral.

People are surprised that a woman with cerebral palsy can write such talented poems. She’s become famous, and hundreds of media outlets have reported on her. Publishing houses are lining up to publish her book of poetry, and she has a wide readership spanning all ages.

With the popularity of her poems has come fame and financial independence. This has emboldened her to start anew. Her husband, however, vehemently refuses to grant her a divorce, and her parents and her 20-year-old son disapprove of her life choices. To make things worse, her mother has just been diagnosed with cancer. What will she do?

Our film portrays the struggle of a woman and her personal desires, pitted against the wishes and daily realities of those around her. She yearns for the love of other men – as of yet, unrequited as she has not been able to break free of her unwanted husband.

The bigger the gap between her desires and reality, the greater the torture she feels. She expresses this through her poetry, which has become ever more poignant.

Yu Xiuhua has said, “I feel my voice cannot adequately deliver my poems: my soul is trapped in my body.” To some degree, many of us feel similarly conflicted. Our deepest desires cannot always express themselves in reality.

After all, Yu Xiuhua’s life is the most unlikely success story – and with her success has come the possibility of breaking free: breaking free from the constraints many others would simply be forced to live with. Our film follows a period in her life in which she no longer accepts the old constraints placed on her – and in so doing, it mirrors the conflicts so many of us have to face in our own lives.


Key Creative Personnel
FAN Jian, Director
FAN Jian is a Beijing-based documentary director with a focus on Chinese social issues and human interest. After graduation from Beijing Film Academy, he has made more than 5 feature documentary films, which has been selected into
Berlinale, IDFA, BIFF, HKIFF and other film festivals. His previous film The Next Life, a co-production with NHK & Al Jazeera, had won many awards in China. His latest work My Land got support from Sundance documentary fund and been selected into Panorama of Berlinale 2016.

YU Hongmiao, Producer
Hongmiao Yu is General Manager and Chief Producer and Senior Documentary Director of Factual Program Center, Youku Tudou Inc. She’s the Chief Director of internet outdoor reality show Lvxing season 1&2; Chief Director of Meet with You, the first ten-episode internet-rooted documentary series; Internet Dissemination Planner of Chai Jing’s Investigation of Smog: Under the Dome.
She used to work for CCTV as Chief Editor of CCTV-13’s news programs Oriental Horizon and Social Record during 2003 - 1015 and Documentary Director of CCTV-1’s documentary program The True Story during 2000 – 2003.

XU Zitao, Producer
XU Zitao is a producer based in Beijing. She used to work for Youku Tudou Inc. as Factual Programming Chief Editor, and have produced a number of shows such as On the Road, Growing Season, Beijing Youth, Ji Lu, etc. that are widely recognized by the industry and market.
Documentary series ‘On the Road’, published in 2013,which attracted more than 500 media to cover its story and was rewarded by the International ‘Golden panda’ Documentary Festival and ‘JinTong’ Award. Documentary series ‘Ji Lu’, ‘Best Program’ award by Chinese Documentary Association, are committed to memorize the true stories of growing-up, dreams and emotions of Chinese people. Episodes from the series were awarded ‘Jin Tong’ Award and ‘Best Dissemination’ of Xi’an International Video Festival.

CHENG Leer, Co-producer
Leer Cheng is a producer based in Beijing. Films she’s worked on include documentary film Plastic China (in production) supported by IDFA Bertha Fund, feature film (Sex) Appeal selected for 2014 Busan International Film Festival New
Currents Competition, and feature film Line Walker – a China box-office hit among 2016 summer releases. Leer holds an MBA degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, USA.

Matthieu Laclau, Editor
Matthieu Laclau has been working as a director of photography and an editor in Beijing since 2008. He graduated from a Film Theory Master Degree at the University Paris 3 in France. Matthieu first came to Beijing in 2007 to make a documentary on Jia Zhang-ke (“Xiao Jia Going Home”, dir. Damien Ounouri). He wins the 50th Golden Horse Best Film Editing Awards for his work on : “A Touch of Sin” directed by Jia Zhang-ke. He lives now in Taipei.

Directed by: FAN Jian
Presented by: Victor Koo Yang Weidong
Executive Producers: Wei Ming Wang Ping
Producers: Yu Hongmiao Xu Zitao
Co-producer: Leer Cheng
Consultant: Bob Moore
Cinematography: Xue Ming Fan Jian
Sound Recordist: Isabella Zang
Sound Designer: Li Danfeng
Edited by: Matthieu Laclau Fan Jian
Editing Consultant: Jean Tsien, ACE
Editing Assistant: Marine Chiu
Music: Lim Giong
Production Assistants: Zhang Zhitong Liu Ziru
Camera Assistants: Wei Gao Wang Jian Wu Yuanhang
Script Supervisor: Isabella Zang
Colorist: Hung Wen-Kai
Timeline studio Post production coordinator: Joanne Lee
Subtitles Translator: Han Dong
Proofreading: Ning Xin
Poems Translators: Ai Luo Wang Tu Michael Grafals

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies, Asia Pacific Center, Asian Languages & Cultures, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television