“I hope the students will go into the world with open eyes” – Daniel Che Hermann
The sounds of chairs scraping the stone floors of the third courtyard of the Linden Commons fill the air as parents, teachers, local community members, and kids choose their seats while they wait for the stars of the night to arrive. They’re waiting eagerly, of course, for our 12 talented, if not a bit tired, young filmmakers and their 6 equally dedicated teachers. Meanwhile, at Yang Zhuo Ran, students and teachers are in a rush to make sure all final movie cuts are perfect, and then loaded onto multiple precious hard drives. The courtyard comes alive with voices as the students arrive, breaking the silence that has settled over the waiting crowd. The screening, projected onto a traditional Bai white reflecting wall, officially kicks off with a video of interviews with the teachers created by teacher Yu Yi.
One of the questions we decided to ask each director was: “what do you hope the students will take away from this experience?” All of the teachers hoped their students would come away changed in some way. They hoped that beyond gaining an appreciation for filmmaking, their students would have a greater awareness when interacting with the world around them and the people in it.
The student films were shown in the following order:
[沙村的渔民 The Fishermen of Sha Cun]
Location: Sha Cun
Students: Nick, Yu Rui, and Li Xiao Juan
Teachers: Sebastian Bergfeld, Timon Wawreczko
This group interviewed Shacun people about the history of the fishing as a livelihood and the current state of the fishing in regards to the Erhai Lake environmental protection project.
[白族的灵魂 The Soul of the Bai]
Location: Zhou Cheng
Students: Yang Xiao Juan, Henry, and Yang Pei Jie
Teacher: Daniel Che Hermann
This group followed the lives of three people involved in the tie-dye industry, a teenage boy, a mother, and an elderly woman. Each depend on tie-dye to make their living.
[老赵 Old Man Zhao]
Location: Xi Zhou
Students: Cindy, Lesly, and Zi Zhu
Teacher: Tianlin Xu
This group documented the life of Mr. Zhao, the security guard at Yang Zhuo Ran, who was once a construction worker who now has a passion and great knowledge of Bai style architecture.
[一起奔小康 Making a Good Life] [Hope With You] [Life is Going On]
Location: Zhou Cheng
Students: Ying Ying, Lv Xing, and Paul (respectively)
Teacher: Yao Yao Wu (511)
Each student produced their own film on the topic of the changes overtime in both the tie-dye industry and in local religion in Zhou Cheng.
After each film was shown, the students, their teachers, and, if present, their respective film subjects took the stage for Q&A. During this time, students reflected on the things they learned (how to record sound separately and edit it in later), things that were challenging (how to approach total strangers), and things they were thankful for (their teachers).
Immediately after a few closing words by Planet Why’s 511, the students were given their completion certificates. Then commenced a flurry of hugging, signing each others’ certificates, and yelling the German word “Klasse” in group photos (a word meaning “classic, cool” popularized by German teacher Che).
In one short week, the teachers and students bonded immensely as they filmed for hours on end and then spent more hours nestled away in various corners of Yang Zhuo Ran editing said footage. I remember waking up one morning shocked after reading the student WeChat group; the students had still been awake at 4:30 A.M. cooking noodles in the kitchen while taking a break from editing. Almost every day I came away feeling truly amazed at how much dedication and work these teenagers had poured into their projects. It is not often that students are given the opportunity to express themselves creatively and, especially for the local students, to explore their familiar world through a different lens. This is why I think it is important for programs like this to exist, and for the Linden Centre to continue hosting them in the future.
At the end of the workshop, I asked Ying Ying, a home-schooled self-taught chef/Hui minority child of artists how she felt about the program: “I felt a sense of achievement.” Why? “Because we went from zero, knowing nothing, to having a finished project! One week of classes and then we made a movie for everyone to see.” What did she take away from the program? “The way I view the world is different, my perspective has changed.” Anything else? “If you’re going to have another one, tell me!”
Check out Parts I & II: