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Friday, September 22, 2023

‘Our Dreams, Our Homeland’: China’s Soul on Screen

Culture'Our Dreams, Our Homeland': China's Soul on Screen

Scheduled for a November 2023 release in mainland China, Our Dreams, Our Homeland is a significant contribution to the cinematic landscape. It is an exception in a year dominated by motion pictures, showcasing the power and potential of documentaries in capturing real-life stories.

A six-year collaboration between the China Intercontinental Communication Center (CICC), Youku, and Backlight Studio, this documentary captures life in its most authentic, artistic form, as described by its director, Qiao Yan. The film masterfully weaves the tales of ten individuals from varying backgrounds, telling a composite story of ambition, struggle, and resilience.

From Xi Jire, a wrangler who aspires to triumph at the Mongolian Nadam Fair’s horse-riding match, to a family deeply engrossed in beekeeping, looking to fund their daughter’s education through their honey business, each narrative offers a unique perspective on life. The documentary also dips its toes into the waters of business and ambition, portraying a Sichuan couple torn between honoring culinary traditions with their hot pot enterprise and the lure of lucrative expansion. Science also gets its moment under the spotlight, as viewers follow an astronomy buff’s quest for pulsars and a young professional’s early days in the space industry, specifically dealing with rocket fuel measurements.

Shying away from conventional documentary methods, Qiao and his team have fragmented each story, creating a mosaic of daily life experiences set against the seasons’ backdrop. The winter introduces dilemmas and hardships, like the Liao family’s internal business conflict. Here, Mr. Liao wishes to retain the intimate size of their thriving Chongqing eatery, while his wife envisions a more expansive, profit-driven enterprise. As the narrative unfolds, it becomes clear that, beneath the surface, there’s a unified theme of confronting life’s adversities. The documentary brilliantly juxtaposes the trials of a humble animal herder with the challenges faced by an aspiring rocket scientist, revealing the common human threads that bind them.

With spring comes rejuvenation. As it progresses, the subjects’ fortunes seem to improve, culminating in autumn, a time of bountiful harvest. The beekeeping family gathers enough resources for their daughter’s higher education, and scientist Pan Zhichen celebrates the discovery of 500 pulsars with the aid of the FAST radio telescope.

The CICC states, “The film offers a panoramic view of the Chinese Dream from the lens of everyday heroes, honoring the ordinary yet monumental contributors of our times.”

Before its release in China, the documentary received international acclaim, showcased on Luxe.tv during the 2023 Chinese New Year celebrations. With French and English translations, it captivated audiences across 65 countries, bringing authentic Chinese tales to the global forefront.

Documentaries have increasingly delved into themes of national identity and personal dreams. Our Dreams, Our Homeland magnifies the relationship between individuals and their world, celebrating everyday champions whose ordinary stories become exceptional. Within these stories, the film captures the spirit of countless Chinese dreamers who come together, their combined hopes and aspirations forging the nation’s broader dream.

Our Dreams, Our Homeland serves as a microcosm of China’s recent evolution. By intertwining ten distinct stories across varied geographies and cultures, it paints a vibrant picture of China’s aspirations and the continuous, spirited energy that drives it forward. This documentary, which had the honor of opening the China Documentary Festival in August, truly embodies the nation’s pulsating heartbeat.


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