POV, Global Voices
The Zhang family travels home on Chinese New Year to reunite with their teenage daughter during the world’s largest annual human migration.
Three broken families work to restore hope and purpose from China's worst natural disaster in decades to China's greatest transition in history.
Qi Zhao is a documentary filmmaker based in Beijing. He worked as a director and producer for the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV for 14 years, covering features, social, political, and environmental issues. Most recently he was producer for the VPRO IDFA best feature documentary Last Train Home,… which deals with the world's largest annual human migration as millions of Chinese flock from the cities to their rural homes by train every Lunar New Year.
Lixin Fan is a social/political documentary filmmaker. He is the director of Last Train Home. Lixin also edited the Peabody and Grierson award-wining documentary To Live Is Better Than To Die, focused on China's AIDS problem and which was featured in the Sundance Film festival and broadcast… by CBC, BBC, TV2, and PBS. Lixin worked as assistant producer, soundman, and cameraman on Yung Chang's Up the Yangtze, a feature documentary about the world's largest hydroelectric project, the Three Gorges Dam.
Beichuan town was entirely leveled by the Sichuan earthquake that killed 90,000 people in 2008. Buried with the bodies were memories, old values, and an old way of life. With the rising of the replacement city, comes a new standard of living but also a growing sense of uncertainty.
Mr. Peng lost his daughter in the earthquake. He stays in a house overlooking the disaster site, tending to the family farm while his wife flees town to recover. While many parents move on to have new babies to fulfill their ancestral duty of carrying on the family bloodline, Peng refuses. He feels that having another child would be a betrayal to his late daughter. When his wife returns, they go on to rebuild their world of two and discover a stronger love. By the time they relocate to the new city, Peng is learning how to drive and his wife is looking for work at a kindergarten, defining their fulfillment outside traditions.
Ms. Li, 55, lost almost her entire family. As a village woman without a family nest, she has been denied her basic happiness. All she has left is an 85-year-old mother who can no longer recognize her — something that Li denies. She devotes herself to caring for her mother and also takes up a job with the neighborhood committee to keep herself busy. But as the mother approaches her last years, Li must find another reason to go on living. She eventually decides to open a nursing home but her struggle for identity and belonging is not over.
Twelve-year old Hong lost his father. His mother soon finds a new man, becoming one of the many post-earthquake widows marrying widowers. Communication starts to break down and misunderstanding divides mother and son, putting their love on the line. Under constant pressure about his studies, Hong runs away. Eventually he loses his chance to go to university. He will train to become a worker on a factory line assembling TV sets, 200 kilometers away from his hometown. On this lonely coming-of-age journey, Hong will need to redefine what family, without a father, really means to him.
As they continue to rebuild their lives, Peng, Li, and Hong speak for a generation left to reconstruct its own hopes and values. From China's worst natural disaster in decades to a China in the throes of transition and a fragmented developed world, Fallen City crosses boundaries to portray the journey of human beings searching for their place in a changing world.