Sky’s the limit for pop­u­lar land­scape doc­u­men­tary

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By XU FAN xu­[email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

Apart from the oc­ca­sional trip by an air­plane, few peo­ple get the chance to ad­mire China’s mag­nif­i­cent land­scapes with a bird’s-eye view.

Other than at­tempt­ing to ob­tain a pi­lot’s li­cense, or spend­ing a for­tune on plane tick­ets, per­haps a more eco­nom­i­cal al­ter­na­tive would be to just watch China From Above, a doc­u­men­tary se­ries that mainly uses aerial shots to cap­ture the coun­try’s moun­tains, rivers, cities and its peo­ple.

For do­mes­tic au­di­ences, the twoepisode sec­ond sea­son of the show has been avail­able on the stream­ing site, Bili­bili, since Nov 10, and ac­cu­mu­lated nearly 1.3 mil­lion “clicks” as of Wed­nes­day.

As a joint pro­duc­tion by com­pa­nies from China, the United States, New Zealand and Sin­ga­pore, sea­son two also pre­miered on the Na­tional Geo­graphic Chan­nel on Nov 10, with the sec­ond episode air­ing the fol­low­ing day.

The first episode trav­els along China’s 18,000-kilo­me­ter-long coast­line, the fourth long­est in the world, ex­plor­ing its di­verse en­vi­ron­ments, from the frigid Bo­hai Bay in the north to Hainan is­land in the far trop­i­cal south.

Shift­ing to a some­what west-toeast route, the sec­ond episode em­barks on a jour­ney from the Hi­malayas to the Qing­hai-Ti­bet Plateau, tak­ing in mul­ti­ple cities, in­clud­ing Chongqing and Wuhan, along the way, be­fore fi­nally reach­ing the bustling me­trop­o­lis of Shang­hai.

“China is a coun­try of im­mense con­trasts. While most West­ern­ers have a very set idea of China, we wanted to sur­prise and intrigue them by show­cas­ing the di­ver­sity of Chi­nese peo­ple and land­scapes be­yond the Great Wall,” says Kyle Mur­doch, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of NHNZ Ltd.

Based in Dunedin in New Zealand, NHNZ is one of the show’s pro­duc­ers, which also in­cludes China In­tercon­ti­nen­tal Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Cen­ter, US-based Na­tional Geo­graphic and Beach House Pic­tures in Sin­ga­pore.

Mur­doch re­veals the idea to shoot China from the sky first came about in 2012.

“Back then, drones were not as widely avail­able as they are to­day — so this was a very am­bi­tious un­der­tak­ing as we’d need to shoot mostly from he­li­copters,” he re­calls.

“It’s unique be­cause while many peo­ple could record from the air in many other coun­tries around the world, the reg­u­la­tions per­mit­ting this in China make it very dif­fi­cult for just any­one to do,” adds Mur­doch.

The first sea­son achieved huge pop­u­lar­ity. It be­came the most­watched on­line doc­u­men­tary in China in 2015, win­ning more than 10 awards and be­ing broad­cast to more than 170 coun­tries and re­gions.

Now, with more ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy, the sec­ond sea­son uses video cam­era drones with 4k ul­tra high def­i­ni­tion res­o­lu­tion, al­low­ing much clearer and sharper im­ages as they fol­low mov­ing objects from above.

How­ever, it’s not just a col­lec­tion of pic­turesque scenes. The cam­era lens also comes down to earth to tell the emo­tional and in­ter­est­ing sto­ries of the peo­ple be­low, says Wang Yuanyuan, di­rec­tor of the film and tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion cen­ter with CICC.

“China’s doc­u­men­tary-mak­ing in­dus­try has im­proved in re­cent years. We’ve learned a lot from our for­eign part­ners,” she adds.

In the first episode, the show cov­ers the story of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Ma­cao Bridge, China’s first ma­jor com­bined bridge and tun­nel sea-cross­ing pro­ject. The crew in­ter­viewed a sur­veyor, who left home shortly af­ter get­ting mar­ried and could only see his wife once or twice a year over the course of the sev­enyear con­struc­tion.

In some other sto­ries, a 61-yearold woman leads a team in a swim­ming com­pe­ti­tion to cross the Yangtze River in Wuhan, and we see an archery chal­lenge that dates back more than 80 years take place in a Ti­betan val­ley.

In the sec­ond in­stance, a group episode, for of climbers,

in­stead of tak­ing their last chance to mount an at­tempt on the world’s high­est peak, choose to re­main at the north­ern base camp of Qo­molangma, or Mount Ever­est, along with some 150 yaks, to clean up and col­lect rub­bish and equip­ment left on the route.

“Ev­ery time we pro­duce a film about China, we learn some­thing new. There is so much to discover, un­cover and share about this in­cred­i­ble coun­try,” says Mur­doch.

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