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Gripping documentary films from around the world

ZHOU Bing's highly anticipated documentary "Dunhuang" will be screened in a showcase of top Chinese and foreign documentaries through December, writes Xu Wei.

Documentary fans who want more than limited TV fare now can see 24 of the best recent Chinese and foreign documentaries in the theater.

The Documentary Channel has launched its third annual exhibition, part of the "DocuChina" project that provides a launching pad and platform for young directors.

Through December 14, the Broadband International Cineplex will screen acclaimed documentaries on two Mondays of each month. The directors of each film will speak after screenings.

Most of the films are award-winning works. They include Zhou Bing's "Dunhuang," Zhang Yuan's "Crazy English," German Helmer Jorg Millner's "Goering: A Career," Israeli director Tali Shemesh's "The Cemetery Club" and Australian director Geoffrey Smith's "The English Surgeon."

They offer insights into the cultures, customs and history of nations and how fast economic growth and urbanization have changed the lives of ordinary people.

"The Red Race" by local film maker Gan Chao is a heartwarming work that focuses on training child gymnasts from poor areas. The children are their family's only hopes for a better future.

Director Gan shows the rigorous life of kindergarten-aged gymnasts at China's Youth Athletic School that is nurturing Olympic athletes.

Gan says he was touched by the children's optimism, courage and perseverance.

"They carry big expectations on their little shoulders. Despite tears and injuries, they maintain their dignity and make their parents proud."

Zhou's "Dunhuang" is a highly anticipated historical documentary that focuses not on the grottoes' extraordinary Buddhist art (extensively documented) but on the lost civilization around it.

Zhou rose to fame through his popular documentary series "The Palace Museum."

It took three years to film "Dunhuang" that features enactments of events that shaped the Gansu Province grottoes. It centers on people like Yue Zun, who dug the first cave in 366 AD; monk Tan Wubi, a prince in the Southern and Northern Dynasties (AD 420-589) who gave up his kingdom to practice Buddhism, and Shi Xiaoyu, a cave painter in the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368).

Smith's powerful "English Surgeon" is another highlight.

The 104-minute picture won Best International Feature Documentary at HotDocs 2008. It follows brain surgeon Henry Marsh on one of his visits to Ukraine with a struggling healthcare system. Marsh wrestles with the dilemmas of the special doctor/patient relationship and his anxieties about whom he can and cannot save.

The past two documentary exhibitions together have attracted 5,700 viewers, mostly young professionals. They have featured 43 documentaries, including Christine Choy's "Who Killed Vincent Chin?," Ruby Yang's Oscar-winning "The Blood of Yingzhou District" and Jin Tiemu's "Yuan Ming Yuan."

Regular documentary screening in theaters is a good way to help improve the nation's documentary industry, says film maker Chen Xiaoqing, known for his nature documentary serial "Forest China."

"Chinese documentaries usually do not make for big box office," he says, "but they still have a big loyal fan base."

Most of the works will be shown with both English and Chinese subtitles. For more information and screening schedule, please check

Date: through December 14, two Mondays a month, 6:30pm

Venue: Broadband International Cineplex, 6/F, 99 Huaihai Rd M.

Tickets: 35 yuan per screening

Tel: 6391-0363, 6256-5899 ext 6911


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