2005 saw the beginning of the ground-breaking China Village Documentary Project, which, as the first of its kind in China, provides a channel to reflect what the Chinese countryside looks like by putting video cameras in the hands of villagers across the nation.
China’s premier documentary filmmaker WU Wenguang and Caochangdi Workstation in Beijing were the main executors of this project, which represents a new direction in documentary filmmaking in China.
For the first time, the public and political lives of Chinese villages were captured through the lenses of the people native to the land. Villages can never be as real if filmed by an outsider.
The Project is a collection of ten short documentary films, each ten minutes in length, made by ten villagers (aged between 24 and 59 at the time of filming) from across the country. The ten villager-filmmakers were chosen from a pool of candidates who sent in proposals for the competition. The Project awarded each of them a DV camera (which “is worth something like at least an equivalent of the cost of raising 15 handsome pigs back home”). Cameras in hand, they were eager to rediscover their home villages and tell their stories to others for the first time in their lives.
It was the first time that these Chinese villagers had taken up a DV camera to shoot documentary footage of their own lives. This came during a period of changing rural public life under the evolving democratic system known as “village self-governance”.
The interactions between villagers in front of and behind the DV camera would never have been the same had the film been shot by a “professional” from outside the village.