As China's higher education system becomes more privatized, a new generation of Chinese youth are losing access to it.
8-year-old students in an elementary school in China campaign for class monitor.
Weijun Chen is a documentary director and producer living in Wuhan, central China. After graduating with a degree in journalism from Sichuan University in 1992, he joined the documentary production department of the Wuhan regional television station. Chen’s first film, My Life Is My Philosophy,… was nominated for the best documentary of the year by the Chinese National Association of Broadcasters. In 2003, he completed To Live Is Better Than To Die, which was awarded Peabody and Grierson awards, as well at the Rodlf Vrfba Award from the One World Festival.
Don Edkins is a documentary filmmaker and producer based in Cape Town, South Africa. With an academic background in Development Studies and African languages, he has extensive work experience in the field of media and development. He produced the multi-awarded Steps for the Future (2001/4), a… collection of 38 films from Southern Africa about life in the time of HIV/AIDS. He was executive producer for the STEPS global documentary project Why Democracy? of 10 longform documentaries and 17 short films, screened by 48 broadcasters in 180 countries. With more than 30 international awards for the films, including an Oscar, two Peabodys, and a Grierson, the films are now being distributed worldwide for educational outreach. He is coauthor of a book about documentary filmmaking, training and outreach published by Jacana Media: STEPS by STEPS. Don is director of Steps International, and executive producer of the new STEPS project Why Poverty?
An experiment in democracy is taking place in Wuhan, the most populous city in central China. For the first time ever, the students in grade three at Evergreen Primary School in Wuhan, China have been asked to elect a class monitor. Traditionally appointed by the teacher, the class monitor holds a powerful position, helping to control the students, keeping them on task, and doling out punishment to those who disobey. The teacher has chosen three candidates: Luo Lei (a boy), the current class monitor; Cheng Cheng (a boy); and Xu Xiaofei (a girl). Each candidate is asked to choose two assistants to help with his or her campaign.
To prove their worthiness, the candidates must perform in three events. After a talent show and a debate, ach candidate must deliver a speech, asking their classmates for their votes.
At home, each of the children is coached by his or her parents and pushed to practice and memorize for each stage of the campaign. Although their parents are supportive, the candidates feel the pressure. Tears and the occasional angry outburst reveal the emotional impact. At school, the candidates talk to classmates one-on-one, making promises, planning tactics (including negative ones) and at times expressing doubts about their own candidacies.
For all three children, the campaign takes its toll, especially for the losing candidates and their assistants. Viewers are left to decide if the experiment in democracy has been successful and what it might mean for democracy education in China. Please Vote for Me challenges those committed to China’s democratization to consider the feasibility of, and processes involved in, its implementation.