New Xinjiang-focused poverty relief film demonstrates China’s ethnic unity
Promotional material for The Sun Shines on TashkurganPhotos: Courtesy of Kashi Jia Lu Film &Media
"Our country never forgets any of its people or regions. No matter how remote, they have received support from the motherland to alleviate poverty," filmmaker Lin Tao told the Global Times, explaining why his new film focuses on the Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The remote county lies on the Pamirs Plateau and shares a border with the countries of Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
To narrate the poverty-relief stories of the Tajik ethnic group in the region, Lin together with his crew spent more than a month filming in the county in 2018. Since shooting ended, the team has worked tirelessly to polish the film to perfection, so they could bring a vivid story about Chinese volunteer officials in Xinjiang to the big screen for audiences, especially those who have never been to the region.
The film The Sun Shines on Tashkurgan, set for release on Saturday, paints a harmonious picture of different Chinese ethnic groups uniting together. The film's lead actress Gulimire Duoerbing, a Tajik school teacher making her acting debut, told the Global Times that in her eyes the film is a true-to-life portrayal of the Tajik people's efforts to overcome poverty.
Breath of fresh air
The premiere of the movie was held in Beijing on Monday. The hundreds of people in attendance were able to appreciate Lin's sentiment that summer was a good time to watch the film as the cool images on screen were a calming balm for the rising heat outside the theater.
Herds of horses splashing through clean streams on the flat plateau as snowy mountains quietly stand on the horizon surrounded by clouds and mist were just some of the images that stunned the audience and brought the refreshing atmosphere of the plateau to the theater thousands of kilometers away.
Following the steps of Peng Guangliang (played by Li Chenhao), a university graduate from Beijing who volunteers for a program to support Xinjiang tourism, the audience gets to know Yang Xinda (played by Cao Li), a Party secretary who has worked in the county for over 19 years as a supporting official, and Talaiguli (Duoerbing), a kindergarten teacher. When Peng arrives at the village of Pile, it has no roads to the outside world, no running water and no internet. At first, the young man refuses to stay in the village because of these conditions, but he is quickly touched by the kindness and optimistic spirit of the villagers and decides to stay and help them lift themselves from poverty.
Through the efforts of these officials from different generations and despite a major tragedy, a paved road connecting the village to the rest of the county is built, clean running water is brought into people's homes and internet access is made available to all local residents.
The story of Peng and Yang was adapted from the real stories of six officials who traveled to Xinjiang to support the region, the film's producer Jia Lu told the Global Times.
Real Tajik stories
Besides the stories of officials, many of the details about local people were adapted from the real lives of local Tajik residents, such as that of Duoerbing, who was teaching at a local primary school when she was chosen for the role.
Lin said that Duoerbing was chosen just two days before shooting began and that it was a happy accident that his team met the teacher who had never performed before the camera.
"The resulting movie proves that I made the correct decision at that time," Lin noted.
Duoerbing told the Global Times that she teaches Chinese at school and due to poverty alleviation efforts her students are now able to watch education videos on the internet just like children living in other regions.
The teacher in her 20s began to notice changes in her hometown starting in 2014 as flat and convenient roads that reached each household meant local children no longer needed to tramp over hill and dale to get to school.
As education is one of the main priorities of poverty alleviation efforts, each village in the county now has its own kindergarten and a school for first to third grade students, while fourth graders and above have to go to county schools.
The production team said the ethnic unity on display in Xinjiang while they shot the film was palpable. The producer noted that every Monday, more than 500 Tajik people would voluntarily gather at the small village square to raise the Chinese national flag and singing the national anthem.
"Our team is also an example of ethnic unity," Li said.
The crew's interpreter was a young Tajik man whose father named him "Hongkong" as he was born on July 1, 1997, the day Hong Kong returned to the motherland. "We still often send messages to each other and Hongkong talks about his current life on WeChat," Li added.