hen you work hard, you will get lucky. When you are brave, you will be capable of change.”
The words are from I Am from Xinjiang on the Silk Road, a book by Kurbanjan Samat, an ethnic Uygur photographer from Hotan in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
Released two years ago, the book captures the daily lives of some 100 nativeswhonowlive in different parts of China, with the aim of unfolding a panorama of the region for a wide section of readers.
But the photographer’s ambitions were not limited to the book— he wanted a screen version of it, too.
Following months of shooting with his crewand traveling more than 80,000 kilometers to collect footage, a six-episode documentary by the same title premiered on China Central Television’s Channel 9 on Wednesday.
It was also simultaneously broadcast over three major online platforms— LeTV, iQiyi and Tencent. Each episode is 25 minutes. “Perhaps you’ll be disappointed if you only look for picturesque landscapes of Xinjiang in the documentary,” explainsKurbanjan Samat, 34, the show’s chief director and producer.
“Here, the region is only used as a background. The documentary focuses on people— their joys and sorrows— and reflects issues of relevance to modern society.”
While his book has a large number of interviewees, the documentary tells the stories of 18 people, who represent different social strata.
“I didn’t want to clutter the documentary with too many themes,” he says.
“My topic was warmth. It sounds like an easy subject. But in fact, it’s not easy at all to make an exquisite production revealing people’s emotions.”
People who appear in the documentary live in different places, but they have all made progress in pursuing their dreams over the past three decades, he says.
“I’mtelling audiences about Xinjiang people’s Chinese Dream.”
Other than celebrities from Xinjiang like actor-turned-entrepreneur Li Yapeng, actress Tong Liya and singer Parhat Halik, the director also focuses his lens on ordinary natives, ranging from a kebab vendor in Beijing to entrepreneurs and second-generation migrants to Shanghai.
Interviewee Kahal Basir, a 35-year-old man from Aksu, runs an English-language training center for children in Jinhua, a small city in eastern Zhejiang province.
He says in the documentary that he has faced many challenges in his career while trying to find a wife.
Although his school once went through many difficulties, the man believes it will expand nationwide in the future.
“Since I’ve chosen this road, I will stick to it. What I want is simple: to helpmorechildren,” Kahal Basir says.
“When people are exposed to a multicultural environment, their horizons can be expanded and they won’t be narrow-minded.”
Other than offering Kahal Basir a chance to speak about his life and work, the documentary brought him another benefit. He fell in love with an interviewee, also from the show, her.
Actor Li says participating in such a project gives Xinjiang natives, living away from home, the scope to look back and feel the deepest love for their hometown.
Kurbanjan Samat says he wants audiences to also review their lives after watching the documentary, no matter which ethnic group in the and recently married country they belong to.
He also wants to highlight how his interviewees are working hard for themselves and their families.
Nevertheless, this 6.5 million yuan ($985,000) project was nearly stalled due to the lack of money at first. Kurbanjan Samat was finally backed by diverse sources, including authors, philanthropists and the Beijing-basedChinesePeople’s Political Consultative Conference News, which once reported his stories.
Among the documentary’s investors is Zhao Yinhu, a businessman who earlier provided financial assistance to many children in western China’s poverty-stricken areas.
“It is both efficient and important to show good examples ofhowchildren are doing. This documentary shows us that,” says Zhao.
A second season would possibly follow.
Contact the writer at wangkaihao@ chinadaily.com.cn
Kurbanjan Samat, director and producer of the documentary IAmfromXinjiangontheSilkRoad, attends a promotional event in Beijing.
Actress Tong Liya is one of the celebrities featured in the documentary. Kurbanjan Samat, director and producer of IAmfromXinjiangon theSilkRoad