Director turns 'green' making film

Updated: 2014-08-27 11:15

By Lian Zi in San Francisco(China Daily USA)

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A film that tells the story of the first major grassroots environmental movement in China was shown in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Waking the Green Tiger, a documentary film by Canadian documentary filmmaker Gary Marcuse and Chinese documentary filmmaker Shi Lihong, is the recipient of the Best Canadian Feature Film Award, and a finalist for the Green Film Award. Seen through the eyes of local farmers, environmental activists, and journalists,

Waking the Green Tiger follows the extraordinary campaign to stop a huge dam project on the upper Yangtze River in southwestern China. The film was also shown in San Jose on Monday.

"After I finished my exchange program at the University of California Berkeley as a visiting scholar, I realized that the documentary could not only be used to record history, but also to change the world," said Shi, who studied film at Berkeley where she became interested in the observational documentaries.

"Then I decided to make a documentary to wake up more Chinese to pay attention to the environmental movement and take part in government decisions."

Then Marcuse told her that he was developing a documentary about the global environmental movement and asked her to join him. This led to a five-year stay in Yunnan province making this documentary. She now lives in Dali, Yunnan province.

Shi, who used to be a journalist, regarded herself not only as a filmmaker, but also an environmental activist.

She said as China has become more open in the last decade, people have started to realize that they should protect nature rather than conquer it.

"Lots of people were mobilized in campaigns in China that reshaped China's landscape, lakes, forests and grasslands," said Shi.

She added that the environmental movement in China has already achieved some notable accomplishments such as protecting the golden monkey and the Tibetan antelope.

But she also mentioned some challenges and emphasized the importance of public participation in solving environmental problems.

"Although people have realized the importance of protecting the environment, not all of them started to take action. Everyone should take their responsibility and regard it as their right to do so."

Shi questioned that why humans seem to want to destroy nature to satisfy their own needs. "Human needs are endless, but the damage to the nature is irreversible," she said.

She also said that the government should seriously consider the long-term impact on local residents and nature when starting a new construction project.

China passed its first environmental protection law in 1989. In 2014, the first amendment to the law was passed, promising greater powers for environmental authorities and harsher punishment for polluters.

Gary Marcuse has created more than 100 hours of documentaries. His film, Nuclear Dynamite, received 12 international awards.