Amongst other things, I’m currently working on a documentary exploring changing everyday life in a place I call Drum Village, the field site of my Honours research in Shanxi province, northern China.
Spurred by the question of what a rural Chinese village looks like in a ‘globalised’ 21st century, this project aims to offer slow scenes of everyday life in rural China today. This responds to an observation that the tropes conjured by the notion of a ‘village’ often no longer pertain to their contemporary material and cultural manifestations, particularly those circulated in the urban, western worlds I inhabit.
Speaking to an ‘overdeveloped’ audience about social and cultural change in ‘underdeveloped’ worlds, this project is an experiment in attuning to changing places in an age of connection. It looks to how hard and idealised tropes of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ social change might limit audiences from seeing and appreciating the more subtle currents of lives in transformation. It aims to explore through film how one might enact more attentive, less pre-emptive and perhaps less judgemental ways of witnessing the lives of distant others.
The hope is to create a space for reflection: to garner a more acute sense of the proximity of our relations to others who exist far away, but on whom we rely to sustain our everyday existences.
Below are some stills from filming in early 2016, as well as a short clip based on preliminary winter footage. I have aimed to visit every year since.
Drum Village Primary School (2018)
As a side-project, a short film from this project entitled ‘Drum Village Primary School‘ premiered in the Australian Shorts Competition at the 8th Antenna Documentary Film Festival in Sydney in October 2018. Here’s a synopsis:
Like many rural schools across China, Drum Village Primary School’s days feel numbered. Chinese villagers today increasingly aspire to urban schooling for their children, hollowing out China’s villages and the rural way of life. Set in an age of immense social and cultural change, this short film offers slow vignettes of a winter’s day at a shrinking school on China’s expansive Loess Plateau.