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在线翻译:
szdaily -> People
Documentary director reveals historical truths through films
     2014-November-21  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    “My life is a race with time. I am trying to do my best to explore history that has been forgotten, distorted or buried in obscurity, reveal it through documentaries and keep them as an archive for future generations.”

    Deng Kangyan, a self-made documentary maker

 

    Anna Zhao

    anna.whizh@yahoo.com

    DENG KANGYAN, 54, received quite a few honors in the literary world for being in charge of two influential magazines in the 1990s. Now a self-made documentary maker, he has dedicated himself to recording the truth that was forgotten or is fading away in history. As a keen observer of history, he is using the documentary format as a weapon to continue his literary dreams.

    Restoring forgotten memories

    In early September, an exhibition of rare photos, videos and documentaries illustrating Chinese and U.S. soldiers collaborating on the battlefields of India, Myanmar and China against fascist Japanese aggression during World War II was staged at the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution in Beijing. Deng was a leading curator of the exhibition and the producer of two documentaries about the war.

    Deng’s encounter with that part of history dated back to an inspiring conversation with his friends in 2005. After learning about the Chinese Expeditionary Force in Yunnan Province and the war veterans’ miserable lives from his friend, he felt that he was obliged to do something to make those people’s stories known to the world. A few months later, he resigned from his job as editor-in-chief of Phoenix Weekly and headed to Yunnan with plans to make documentaries with like-minded friends.

    “I felt that it was necessary for us to know what happened to the expeditionary force and how they turned setbacks in the beginning into triumphs in the end, so I thought we should shoot some videos while the war veterans are still alive,” he recalled.

    An old picture of a military funeral, which was recently discovered in Tengchong, Yunnan Province, further stoked their curiosity. The picture later turned out to be of American army major William McMurrey, who died on a battlefield there. The finding prompted a relentless search in the U.S. for information on American soldiers who sacrificed their lives in China. At the National Archives of the United States, Deng and his team found more than 20,000 pictures of the expedition force, some of which were later shown for the first time to the world in the Beijing exhibition.

    The research was going well, but due to a lack of funding, the documentary had to be suspended until 2007, when Ying Xian, CEO of Yuezhong Holdings who also had an interest in the project, decided to invest in it. Deng later established a film company focusing on documentaries with Ying’s support.

    Deng’s first documentary on the war’s history came out in 2008, entitled “The search for Major McMurrey.” Viewers praised the documentary, and one of Deng’s entrepreneur friends even expressed a willingness to invest in Deng’s future works. In December 2009, the documentary was named a top-10 best piece by Chinese Television Documentary Prize, a remarkable honor rarely conferred on private documentary makers. That same year, the documentary was selected for international exchange by the Ministry of Culture and was translated into 10 languages to be handed out to Chinese embassies abroad.

    Deng soon embarked on another assignment after the documentary was screened on TV.

    A Shenzhen architect who had watched the documentary told Deng about a Chinese war veteran who was in a mission in India and witnessed the Japanese surrender. The story immediately appealed to Deng.

    Deng spent three years filming his next documentary, “My Chinese Acquaintances.” The documentary became a silver award-winning piece at the 17th Shanghai International Film Festival in 2011 and snatched the Gold Remi Award for documentaries at the WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival in 2012.

    With the success of his first two works, Deng began to expand his realm.

    He organized a six-man team to go to Myanmar to do more research and walked through battle sites that had not been visited by a Chinese in the 70 years since the war.

    In 2012, he persuaded Taiwanese documentary maker Chen Juntian, a renowned producer of a series on the war of resistance, to work with him on the documentary “Huangpu” to reproduce the stories of students from Huangpu Military Academy who fought in the war.

    “I heard that half of the academy’s students lost their lives on the battlefields in the war against the Japanese invasion, but it was never officially verified [on the mainland]. That part of history was buried in silence due to political reasons, but I wanted to restore the truth,” Deng said.

    Deng also influenced many people around him. Chen Ge, who joined Deng’s company three and a half years ago, is one of those people.

    Chen said that she has high esteem for Deng’s devotion and enthusiasm for filming documentaries.

    “Deng seems to have sense of righteousness in his blood. He is passionate about social issues and boldly pursues projects that mainstream media shies away from,” Chen said. “His whole life is dedicated to filming documentaries with no concern for getting anything back.”

    An uneven journey

    Filming documentaries was never easy for Deng. In addition to funding shortages, he was often vexed by various problems propping up in the process of shooting.

    When Deng’s team was filming battle sites for about 20 days in Myanmar, they often had to travel through jungles with precipitous roads and were constantly besieged by local armed forces who mistook them for smugglers of local jewelry and gold from local mines.

    Shooting “Huangpu” was even more arduous. At first, they couldn’t shoot a real army for the battle scenes because resources were tight at the time of their shooting in November 2012. When they managed to hire a few dozen of army men, a strong hurricane hit Guangdong Province, so they had to work against the rain since they had little time with the soldiers. The crew even had to work overnight to sew props themselves with a borrowed sewing machine in their office because they ran out of funds.

    Deng said they were almost on the verge of collapse, but regained faith at the thought that they were in a far better condition than the Huangpu students who fought against the bullets of war.

    His company is currently working on two documentaries — one is about a girls’ school in Dalang founded over 100 years ago by Swiss and German missionaries, and another is about costume culture in China.

    “My life is a race with time. I am trying to do my best to explore history that has been forgotten, distorted or buried in obscurity, reveal it through documentaries and keep them as an archive for future generations,” he said.

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