Granted unprecedented access by the Chinese government, British filmmaker Phil Agland captures the compelling drama of life in Lijiang - a small market town in southwest China. Exquisite and engrossing cinematography reveals people and events in post Cultural Revolution China like never before. For the first time the people of Lijang tell their own compelling stories in their own voices. Journey behind the scenes and witness the joy and pain of daily life during a time of dramatic social transformation. Beyond the Clouds went on to win over twenty international awards including two BAFTAS and three EMMYS.
“Agland shoots the daily and dramatic events with the clinical observation of Frederic Wiseman, only lit with the artfulness of Vermeer.” - Los Angeles Times
“...like a beautifully drawn fairy tale dealing with the intrusion of modern realities. To describe Agland’s work as a documentary is to deny the involving richness of what he has created." - Hollywood Reporter
"How could we make a documentary series lasting seven hours, told purely through day to day stories as they happened? It seemed impossible for such a long time, in what is for many outsiders one of the more enigmatic countries on Earth. But gradually the jigsaw puzzle started to fit together. From out of a blank page we began to find the most wonderful characters at the heart of life in the old city of Lijiang.
Doctor Tang and his surgery seemed to be a perfect place to be close to the heartbeat of the community, and together with Mr Mu, the Butcher in the central market, stories started to happen. It was on Children’s Day June 1st 1991, that Mr Mu’s nephew, Asan, was killed in a teenage gang fight in the new town. We had already been filming for six months. Suddenly we were to be thrust deep into the heart of China’s dilemma that was sweeping the country, the conflict between traditional life and the advent of the modern world. Asan’s sad story was to take us deep into the heartbeat of Chinese life.
With the central spine of our story now unfolding day by day through the tragic aftermath of Asan’s killing, we were able to piece together all the other interconnecting facets of life to help viewers feel that they too were living in this most ancient of towns."
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Beyond the Clouds
7 Part Series for Channel 4, National Geographic & Canal+ (1994)