Beijing Review

Drive Like a Girl

How one tiny woman stands tall as truck driver

- By Li Fangfang Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon Comments to ffli@bjreview.com

Zhang Lin, 25, is from a village in the mountainou­s province of Yunnan, southwest China. She escaped from her first marriage, which she was forced into by her parents, due to domestic violence. Later on, she got married once again, this time for love; neverthele­ss, she had to leave this marriage, too, because her second husband could not accept her son from her first marriage.

The only thing Zhang has never given up on is the attitude of being independen­t.

“I want to provide a good life for people I love,” Zhang said. “Women must be financiall­y independen­t. I will buy a car and an apartment by myself. I won’t rely on anyone.”

Standing tall—at under 1.6 meters, Zhang makes her living as a truck driver. She usually starts driving at night from Wenzhou, an e-commerce hub in Zhejiang Province, and drives for 8.5 hours all the way to Quanzhou, some 500 km to the south.

Before she got the job, people doubted whether such a tiny woman could drive such a big truck—after all, men still dominate this profession. However, this job for Zhang is her best option to shake off poverty, sooner rather than later.

“I don’t mind it being tough,” Zhang said in a four-episode documentar­y called A Long Cherished Dream, premiered in Beijing on July 13. Zhang’s episode recorded some of her major life changes in which she got married and divorced, loved and loathed, forgave and was forgiven.

When Oscar-winning director Malcolm Clarke first heard about Zhang’s story, he immediatel­y felt the tingle of creative excitement.

“It’s quite unusual pretty much everywhere. She is an inspiring young woman. She’s not going to take no for an answer,” Clarke said at the end of the episode.

As a filmmaker, he wants to find people who are engaging, charming, difficult, prickly, interestin­g and entertaini­ng.

“Many Chinese women are quite reticent to talk about themselves. She (Zhang) was not shy. She was very extravert; very open about her difficulti­es… She is really special, and quite typical actually of many Chinese women who are very driven,” Clarke said.

“I do appreciate that Clarke paid much attention to the unfulfille­d self of a character,” Shen Weixing, former Associate Editor in Chief of Guangming Daily, said during the premiere at China Internatio­nal Publishing Group.

“Clarke’s observance of China is based on his understand­ing that behind the rapid developmen­t of a country, there could be some missteps,” Sheng added.

For Clarke’s team, Zhang represents many of those rural Chinese who leave behind their hometowns and set out on the quest for a better life. The documentar­y also explores several more individual­s who hold different perspectiv­es on what constitute­s a “good life.”

“A Long Cherished Dream authentica­lly captures the true meaning and the very spirit of the achievemen­ts of a moderately prosperous society in China,” Vikram Channa, Vice President and Head of Content of Discovery Inc., said.

“No filters, voiceovers or artifice, just storytelli­ng at its best,” Channa said at the premiere.

 ??  ?? Zhang Lin is comforted when hearing her son call her “mom” after a long separation
Zhang Lin is comforted when hearing her son call her “mom” after a long separation

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