New documentary ‘I’m Going to Xinjiang’ tells the stories of non-locals who have made the region their home

By Huang Tingting Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/7 17:38:39


The cover to I'm Going to Xinjiang Photo: Courtesy of Beijing Xiron Books Co, Ltd


Kurbanjan Samat Photo: Courtesy of Beijing Xiron Books Co, Ltd

The people depicted in Uyghur photographer and director Kurbanjan Samat's new documentary series I'm Going to Xinjiang are not originally from Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, but many of them have spent a large portion of their lives working in the region as relic restoration workers, Uyghur language experts and even pole dancers.

A promotional event attended by the director was held on Sunday to mark the nine-episode series' upcoming debut on online streaming platforms iQiyi and Tencent Video as well as China Central Television (CCTV) later this month and promote the accompanying book of the same name.

Featuring the stories of 27 Chinese and foreigners who came to live in Xinjiang, the documentary is Kurbanjan's second film work focusing on this northwestern region after his hit 2016 book and documentary series I'm from Xinjiang on the Silk Road, which focused on Xinjiang natives moving from their hometown to work and live in other cities around China.

Sharing stories

While I'm from Xinjiang on the Silk Road aimed to clear up misconceptions people outside Xinjiang have about those living in the region, the new documentary and book are attempting to showcase the region's flourishing cultural and ethnical diversity.

"People who have gone to Xinjiang and spent a big part of their life in the region have contributed a lot to its development, but their stories are not as well known to the public," the director said at the event.

Selected video clips from the documentary released at the Sunday event included a Shanghai-born orthopedist who moved to Kashgar prefecture as part of an aid program, an architect from Northwest China's Gansu Province who was assigned to the region in the 1960s to help design buildings in Kashi and a Guangdong-born woman who went to live in the region after marrying her Xinjiang husband despite her parents' objections.

Wang Meng, a former minister of culture who once acted as the associate head of a rural group in Ili from 1963 to 1978, is the most well-known celebrity among the more than two dozen figures in the documentary.

"I enjoyed a very happy life in Xinjiang during a not-very-happy time, that's why I say I am always grateful to all the people of Xinjiang," said Wang at the event.

Positive brand

Filmed by a team of nine directors aside from Kurbanjan, who acted as the series' general director and executive producer, the documentary took a year and a half to finish.

Produced by institutions including Kurbanjan's Shanghai Jahangir Culture & Media Investment and Development Co, Ltd and the Shanghai Municipal Office of Xinjiang Affairs, the documentary also received support from State agencies including the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee as well as the Shanghai municipal government during its production, according to organizers at the event.

With I'm from Xinjiang on the Silk Road constantly being used in official tourism material, Kurbanjan and his books and documentaries have quickly become an official brand name promoting a positive image about the region.

The book I'm from Xinjiang on the Silk Road has so far been translated and published in nine languages worldwide and its documentary of the same name garnered over 5 million views on streaming platform Tencent Video.

Moreover, the Uyghur director is looking to expand his project overseas as his third book will focus on people born in Xinjiang who left to live or work overseas. The book is set to hit bookstores in China this August.

"The three books I have done so far actually are more about human stories rather than ethnic ones. They're simple stories about people communicating with each other," Kurbanjan said.

"But sometimes showing even the simplest thing can take a lot of effort."

Newspaper headline: Second home


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