On a steamy summer day in July of 2012 with a temperature climbing above 40 °C, I started to teach photography at Lingzhi Elementary School in Wuhan, China with a group of 23 “migrant children” aged 8-12, since then both the children and me used cameras to explore. Lingzhi is known as the “rooftop” school, because its classes are held in a worn-down, four-floor apartment building with a rooftop playground for about 200 students. All of them are “migrant children” who are originally from rural areas but come with their job seeking parents to urban cities in search of a better life.
When those children migrated to the most populous city in Central China from the tranquil countryside, most of them fell in love with the bustling city, Wuhan at their first glance. They were intrigued by the city life, and tried to get away from the poor family and the genetic past. They were ambitious about the future and had various dreams. Nevertheless, they had to endure miserable living conditions due to the low income of their families and a discriminatory household registration policy known as Hukou. The distance between the innocence of hopes and the brutality of life seems to remind that - would their dreams become pipe dreams?
- Zhengfan Yang
- Shengze Zhu
- Shengze Zhu
- Zhengfan Yang
I was always astounded by how mature children could be. The world in their eyes may be not too different from the one in the adults’ eyes. Their conduct and thoughts may be strongly influenced by the surrounding environment and the society. So I decided to make a film with migrant children. What appealed me was not the modest living conditions they confronted, but the country kid's perceptions and interpretations of cities and the nation’s rapid urbanization. With an attempt to capture the inside views of the children, I gave them cameras and let them become their own advocates.
- BURN THE FILM PRODUCTION HOUSE
I’m always interested to see the world through the eyes of others, through their viewpoints and perspectives.
Shengze Zhu is a documentary filmmaker and producer. She co-founded BURN THE FILM with Zhengfan Yang, and they have been collaborating as dynamic duo since 2012. OUT OF FOCUS (2014, documentary) is Zhu’s directorial feature debut, which premiered at the Cinéma du Réel in France, and screened at the DMZ International Documentary Film Festival (South Korea), FRONTEIRA International Documentary & Experimental Film Festival (Brazil), among others. Her second feature documentary ANOTHER YEAR (2016) premiered at the Visions du Réel in Switzerland and received the Sesterce d’or / Best Film Award; it also received the Grand Prize at the RIDM Montreal International Documentary Festival, the Critic's Award at the Olhar de Cinema (Brazil), and was honored as "Top 10 Films of the Year" in 2016 by 24 Images magazine (Canada). PRESENT.PERFECT. (2019) is her third feature, which premieres at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Tiger Competition. Zhu has also served as producer for Yang's films, including DISTANT (2013, fiction, Locarno), WHERE ARE YOU GOING (2016) and DOWN THERE (2018).