Set in a Christian town that was deemed nonexistent by the Chinese government in 1986, traditionalism and modernism clash during the Christmas celebrations as the younger generation doubts the older generation's values and yearns for urban life.
It’s a story of a place that’s lost in time and wiped off from the map. It’s also a story of the people here, people you cannot find anywhere else in China. Set in Bi-jiang, a town lost in time and so isolated from the world that it was pardoned from the Communist Revolution period in China. Frozen in time, as you walk down the street you can still find slogans on the wall that predate the Cultural Revolution.
But just when you think this is an abandoned town from the 50’s, a white building that resembles a church appears up on the hill. All of a sudden, you see all these people in the courtyard dressed in 50’s styled clothes, peacefully sitting together making Christmas decorations for a giant Christmas tree they’re going to put up.
Unique to China’s religious norms, the Christian religion has been established in Bi-jiang since the 19th century. The new Chinese government didn’t know what to do with the town and it’s “lacking of revolutionary enthusiasm”, so they abandoned it after a big flood in the 70’s. They “erased” the town on the map and moved the government out.
A small glimpse into this forgotten land is best told when I came across pictures from a friend’s photographer studio. He was one of the first outsiders that ever landed a foot in this town. The visuals and the way he describes the surreal experience he had in Bi-jiang is striking. He refers to this place as “the land of peach blossom ”, which is a fictional place in a well-known Chinese poem where people escape to; to be forgotten and find peace. He even believes all these people are 150 years old and just never age. “ Their energy is out of this world. It’s not just the religion. Even the kids there are calm and wise.” This profound discovery haunted me ever since. I’m going there with my camera. I believe something magical will happen.
Making this movie is a way to preserve the last image of this beautiful and peaceful town in memory of the time when religion was free and respected. I want both western and Chinese audiences to look at the modernization through this forgotten town in China, where life is as simple as working in the field, cooking, and making Christmas decorations together. It’s my form of social research, to answer a question I’ve always had: “what would life in China be if the Communist party didn’t take over?”
People in Bi-jiang struggle with poverty and lack of education and their struggle reflects the challenge mankind is facing in an increasingly modernized world. In order to address this issue on a global scale, I’ll focus on the worldwide familiarity of the Christian church to help compare and contrast. From the characters watching the American Christmas shows, to showing how other towns worship in churches in another part of the world. Is Bi-jiang more different, or more similar than the world’s they don’t even know exist.
3-GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
I want to introduce the beauty of the daily activities and spiritual practice of people in Bi-jiang, exposing a lifestyle that’s unseen on the screen.
Through introducing the history of Bi-Jiang, I’m expecting the audience will appreciate the peacefulness of Chinese traditional culture, and how different that is from the modern Chinese culture that’s often portrayed in the media. And for me as a filmmaker, I want to find out what we lose when we lose the spiritual connection to our land.
c) By exposing the education and employment problems that modern China is having right now and specifically in the countryside, I want to awaken the world about the economical and cultural transformation that’s shocking these segments. While doing research, I realized that the U.S. has also been through the same transition (industrial revolution) in their culture. So for the western audience, it’s a chance to get a better understanding of where they are standing as modern individuals in relation to the globalization effect it is having on China.
Yoyo Li - Filmmaker
Raised in China by University Art Professors, Yoyo had grown tired of being censored by the Chinese government on what stories she could tell as she obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Film Directing at the Communication University of China. Yoyo embarked on her own journey to Los Angeles and received her Masters in Film Production at Loyola Marymount University. Her experience of being a Director and DP of documentary films had a very profound effect on her vision as a storyteller. She remembers the moment in the editing room when she realized that her own self-discovery in cinema were captured in the personal emotions of the characters and story. Her documentaries have taken hundreds of audiences from the U.S to places they’ve never been as she observes how class and regional lines collide to debunk the Chinese propaganda about equality through her films. In addition to documentary filmmaking, Yoyo is also an award-winning production designer that enjoys creating worlds for other filmmakers.
M.F.A. Film & TV Production '17 | Loyola Marymount University
B.A. Directing & Editing '14 | Communication University of China, Beijing