I can trace my fascination with images to having spent most of my life in a small photoshop. My parents still run the shop to this day, in Ji’an, the small city where I was born and have lived my whole life in the fertile, rural Jiangxi Province in Southeast China. When I was still a child, I would run between the front of the store and the darkroom, where images magically appeared on snow-white photographic paper. Every day, I would see hundreds of mysterious photos pass through the shop - who were these faces, what was their story? That's when the power of images worked its way inside me.
I’m a documentary filmmaker and photographer currently based in Philadelphia. I’m interested in humanity. For me, non-fiction art form provides us with a chance to connect with people, to understand others, and to mindfully see things happening around us, things that we may ignore easily. Thus, making documentaries to me is self-education and an approach to explore the world where I live. A documentary bears no mission to change the world swiftly, while it influences people in a rather subtle way -every story we hear and see will gradually be rooted deep in the mind like seeds and sprout over time. It also empowers me with autonomy to document the history with my own eyes, as a revolt against being educated by authorities who control history book, allowing us to only know things considered politically right.
I focus on themes about social injustice and human rights. I tell stories of underrepresented individuals and communities who deserve equal attention and care in society. My frames explore the four different stages of life: birth, aging, illness and death. Through it, I excavate the cultural, political, and sociological context of how people see and deal with these issues. Filming opens a door from the outside world to the inside where the act of switching the camera from others to myself opens an alley for introspection and discovery. I make films about myself and people sharing intimate relationships with me, like my family and friends, which is a practice of meditation, a confirmation of self-identity and an acceptance of who I am.
This belief sustains me and my work, from my previous film All About My Sisters to the current one The Last Nail. I spent my last seven years filming my family about abortions and desertions to explore complex societal power over women’s bodies from the time of China’s One-Child Policy and the history of discrimination against women. Following All About My Sisters, which is a story of birth, The Last Nail, a film about death is on its way to come to life. It is a Chinese feature length documentary that investigates the friction within political powers, ethics, traditional norms, and how it influences the freedom of death. It reveals a massive Funeral Reformation that happened in 2018 in Jiangxi Province and the consequent impact on the millennia-long local tradition of burying bodies in the ground. However, this film is not the end of my ambition. All About My Sisters and The Last Nail are both parts of a tetralogy that I will dedicate my next 10 years to accomplish. This series of documentaries focuses on Birth, Death, Illness and the Force of Aging, which in Buddhism are the major four stages of life of all human beings.
Images brought me out of that small village to the richness of the world, it taught me the meaning of life, and through it, I return back to the life of every one I saw from my father’s lens, but this time, these images – our history – belongs openly to the world.