The story appears on

Page A12

September 3, 2016

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » Health and Environment

Series captures hospital drama in the raw

A 10-episode documentary series that films the real-life stories in Shanghai hospitals has touched and inspired hundreds of thousands of viewers in China.

The series, “Ren Jian Shi,” whose title translates as “In the Human World,” has been widely hailed by critics and online viewers since its debut on Shanghai’s News Channel this June.

The series’ overall score on the film and TV review website Douban currently stands at 9.7 out of 10, based on the rating of more than 6,000 viewers.

Many people commented on the website that “Ren Jian Shi” comes across as heartwarming and genuine and that they were impressed by the sincerity of the film crew.

Set against a context of rising numbers of medical disputes and tensions in the health industry, the series helps to improve mutual understanding between physicians and patients in China.

“The series faces up to death and the fragility of life,” says one online viewer called Alvin. “It made me reflect upon the values of life. Perhaps what city dwellers have forgotten is to cherish people around us and every moment in life.”

Producers of “Ren Jian Shi,” which is now presented on, say it is hoped the series will be distributed overseas.

Each episode has its own theme and the aim is to give a perspective that shows how China’s health-care system works.

The series documents the work of medical staff in the emergency room, how the city’s busy emergency vehicles cope, and looks at the issues of hospice care, body donation and artificial insemination.

The series also provides an insight into the delicate human emotions involved when both medical staff and patients face difficult decisions.

Different from many TV series that portray physicians as strong, confident and competent, this documentary series demonstrates the often-felt helplessness, stress and challenges facing China’s medical staff who are inundated by so many patients every day.

Many viewers were moved by the medical team’s efforts to save a man’s life by having to replace his main body artery with artificial blood vessels. Some were moved to tears when they saw a 26-year-old pregnant woman insisting that her baby be delivered after she’s diagnosed with terminal cancer. The woman has made 18 video clips recording her best wishes and love for her baby to be given as an annual birthday present.

In one episode, three seriously ill patients suffering severe uremia, a serious complication of chronic kidney disease, and cirrhosis of the liver symptoms had their lives transformed by a donated body — so much so they managed to spend the Mid-Autumn Festival with their families.

Another touching story concerns a 42-year-old woman whose only teenage son drowned in a river while trying to save other people’s lives. Hoping to have another child, she underwent several attempts at artificial insemination at a local hospital, but failed to conceive.

The series is not the first documentary set against the backdrop of a hospital. Last year audiences were also impressed by “The Story in ER,” which looked at the experiences of patients in the emergency room of Shanghai No. 6 People’s Hospital.

Chief director Zhou Quan says it took around two years to shoot “Ren Jian Shi.” The film crew wore medical clothing when recording operations, but more than that, they felt themselves to be participants in the dramas they were capturing — facing death and blood along with the surgeons.

Zhou started working with Shanghai Media Group in 2000 and became a veteran journalist and news editor before turning to documentary.


Q: What made you decide to shoot the documentary series two years ago?

A: In recent years, the relationship between physicians and patients has become a serious social issue in China. As mainstream media, we should take the responsibility to improve mutual trust and understanding. It is important to document the real life in the hospitals from varied perspectives. That is the basis for all understanding.


Q: How many hospitals did you visit for shooting? How big is the film crew?

A: We visited more than 20 hospitals. The film crew comprised 12 directors whose work covered interviews, shooting and post-production. We shot more than 1,000 hours of materials in total, which were turned into 10 episodes after editing.


Q: Compared with “The Story in ER,” what method and style did you use?

A: We used basic cinematography of documentary to present the original power and charm of a documentary. Our directors immersed themselves in the hospital scenes. They experienced the whole process of medical treatment with the physicians and patients. It made the sequences as objective as possible. Surgeries and medical treatment are not impersonal or “cold” as some people thought.


Q: What was the biggest challenge for you during the filming? How did you overcome the difficulties?

A: The biggest challenge for us was to build up trust with physicians, patients and hospitals. Since we wanted to document a real hospital, we tried to cover faithfully every aspect, including the imperfection. Each surgery has a risk of failure, and even death. It is important that the surgeons put their trust in us, which could help to deliver their real working condition in front of the camera. We spent eight months in early interviews with the surgeons and patients to win their trust.

Besides, we also faced technical and ethical challenges as medicine is a complicated science. Many professionals were involved to share their expertise and give advice while shooting. Our directors also spent months studying basic knowledge of medicine and surgery.


Q: We notice that each episode of the series has an independent theme and perspective for storytelling. How did you decide the theme? What’s the main line connecting all these episodes?

A: During the filming, we didn’t set any theme for the episodes. We didn’t want to have scripted characters or lines to ensure the authenticity. The themes were set after we had abundant materials and sequences to classify. The main line of the series is human relationships in the hospital and modern society as well.


Q: What were the moving stories to you during shooting?

A: There were so many moving moments. It’s hard to enumerate all of them here. But I think the most touching story is always the real life and emotions.


Q: Documentaries about hospitals are rare in China. In your opinion, what made the series successful? What do you try to convey to audiences?

A: The main reason for the success is that we portrayed the most real stories about life and death, as well as true human feelings. Although we depicted the imperfections of medical industry, we hoped that audiences could be inspired by the tenacious vitality, passion and perseverance of human beings when they face death and hard choices. That is a positive energy we should respect.


Q: Are you considering making any sequels to the documentary series?

A: We hope to develop the series into a franchise. In the future we will film some other professions which are little known to the public. The title of the franchise “Ren Jian Shi” means human world. We want to present a human world which is not that perfect but it is still full of love and hope.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend