Sinoafrican peopletopeople exchanges spread to screens big and small
An enthusiastic young man from Cameroon launches into a Chinese song in a local park, drawing admiring glances from fellow karaoke fans.
“Welcome to Beijing, where everyone has an extraordinary dream, where we dare to try to make miracles,” he sings.
The performance was filmed for the big screen as part of the documentary Africans in Yiwu. The singer is Serge Hervea, a Cameroonian student at the College of Culture and International Education of Zhejiang Normal University, located in east China’s Zhejiang Province.
“I really like singing and listening to music. But singing Chinese songs is not just a hobby for me, it’s also a way to show that I live well in China,” he says.
Shot over a two-year period, Africans in Yiwu is the work of Chinese and African directors: Zhang Yong, Director of the African Television and Film Research Center (ATFRC) at Zhejiang Normal University and Hodan Osman Abdi, Deputy Director of the ATFRC from Somalia.
The documentary consists of six episodes featuring 19 Africans living in China, including Hervea. They recount the ups and downs of their lives in China, and more generally talk about multiculturalism through topics such as education, marriage, business, public welfare, food and art.
Abdi first arrived in China in 2005. Now, 13 years later, she holds a PH.D. in communications from Zhejiang University and is a silver-award winner of the third edition of the Chinese Bridge Chinese Language Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students. In addition to being a professor at the Institute of African Studies of Zhejiang Normal University, Abdi is now also a presidential advisor to the Somali Government.
“My dream is to become a cultural messenger to help Chinese better understand Africa and Africans better understand China,” said Abdi.
The documentary serves precisely this purpose. Abdi and her team followed the protagonists for two years to present their lives in the most realistic way possible. “Through these stories, we hope to inspire public reflection, not just give personal opinions,” explained Abdi, who hopes the film will allow the Chinese public to gain a more objective view of African people.
The documentary was screened at the 2017 Zanzibar International Film Festival and was featured as an opening film at the 2017 Lusaka International Film Festival. It also won the award for best online documentary film in China in 2017.
Convinced of the usefulness of cinema in exploring and showcasing this topic, Zhang did not wait long to get back behind the camera. “We told the life stories of Africans in China in
Africans in Yiwu. This time, we wanted to tell the story of Chinese people living in Africa," he told
Thus, he took the same approach, but in a different location. His second documentary,
TAZARA: A Journey Without an End, shows the impact of the Tanzania-zambia Railway, a flagship project in Sino-african cooperation. For 38 days, the film crew—made up of film-
Film producer Zhang Yong takes a photo with some of the Massais he interviewed for his documentary in Tanzania on January 4