DER Documentary

China Coast / Faces of Change collection

China Coast / Faces of Change

A series of 5 films from the Faces of Change collection
by George Chang, Richard Chen and Norman Miller
color, 113 min, 1974, digitally remastered 2017

Faces of Change - China Coast Series 2 DVD SET:

The fishermen and the island farmers of the Soko Islands in the South China Sea typify coastal harbor communities that have existed for centuries along the China coast, controlled by mainland China or for many decades alien governments in Hong Kong and Macau.

The five films portray two independent cultures that rely on each other in complex ways, the boat people providing fish, transport to markets, and the necessities of survival on the island; the island farmers providing food, a school for boat children and labor when needed on boats and harbor facilities. The day-to-day lives of boat people and island people in this maritime culture three hours from Hong Kong are studies in mutual support, although historically discriminatory between a mainland farm family and boat people, who are seen as second class citizens who floated beyond "civilization."

After the filming in 1973, the entire population, farmers and boat people, were moved by government decree. The farmers were settled in nearby Lantau Island, the fishermen allowed to find harbors where they could. The initial government action was to accommodate refugee boat people from the Vietnam war era, the second to find harbors in Hong Kong's Aberdeen or nearby Cheng Chau where some had relatives and part-time work could be found ashore.

"These films are all set primarily in the Soko Islands, under British rule in Hong Kong territorial waters. They provide an interesting and valuable ethnographic picture of the lives of Chinese islanders and fishermen. Somewhat greater emphasis is given throughout to the fishing families, whose lives are spent almost entirely on their boats, broken only by brief visits to shore to fetch fresh water from a well or buy supplies in a market town.

All are visually excellent, providing fascinating studies of details of daily life. In three of the five films narration is kept at a minimum, with direct simultaneous translation of interviews used effectively to provide verbal information, along with occasional translation of small talk and conversation among the Chinese as they go about their work." — Judith Strauch, American Anthropologist, 1977

Films in the China Coast series:
China Coast Fishing
Hoy Fok and the Island School
The Island Fishpond
Island in the China Sea
Three Island Women

Related Resources
Study Guide

About the Faces of Change collection
This revolutionary series of 26 - 16mm films and videos, funded by the National Science Foundation, produced by Norman Miller and documented by some of the finest ethnographic filmmakers of our time is now available through D.E.R. The films examine 5 cultures selected for the diversity of their geographic location: starting with the China Coast at sea level and moving up to Taiwan, then to Afghanistan, Kenya and finally to the mountains of Bolivia. Each location is examined through 5 themes: Rural Society, Education, Rural Economy, Women, and Beliefs.

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