A stunning new documentary series from multiple BAFTA-winning filmmaker, Phil Agland shot on 4K for Chinese Central Television. Filmed over three years with unique access to the private side of China, this series of five extraordinarily intimate films follows the lives of everyday people. Unfolding through compelling stories of real-life human drama interweaving with ecology and natural history. Capturing China’s relationship with nature and the environment, as China grapples with the reality of global warming and ecological collapse in its pursuit of an ambitious new future.
The awareness of ‘ordinary’ people about the devastating consequences of environmental degradation surprised us all. Especially that of the children who seem much more intelligently aware of what is happening environmentally than many children do in the west. It was the magic of people, their honesty and desire to leave a better world for their children that genuinely humbled us. How can we ever forget being allowed to embrace the lives of Living Buddha, Zhou Jia and Little Gama high on the Tibetan Plateau, Little Ray, Reporter Xu and the brave mother fighting against a cancerous factory in Hunan, and the brilliant Four Musketeers fighting to save the endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper on the coast."
So much of our experience filming China: Between Clouds and Dreams was a real privilege, not least filming on the Tibetan Plateau. Although the series was largely funded by Chinese television we were allowed to film unsupervised and to roam freely wherever our stories were to take us. Being accepted as a Chinese director was, in truth, the only way we could film many of the more intimate stories, especially on the Tibetan Plateau.
"Time slips by so quickly and it is hard to believe that it is 28 years since I first arrived in China in 1989 to do the recce for Beyond the Clouds. One of my earliest memories is of the terrifying experience driving our vehicle carefully through thousands of cyclists. Now those bicycles have been replaced by motorcars and what was then a land largely in harmony with nature has to a large extent now become an ecological Armageddon.
Our third series was always going to be about what kind of world awaits future generations. The future seemed grim. In the face of devastating pollution could there be any hope for future generations? What we found as we criss-crossed China filming for two years gave us some cause for optimism and it is now becoming clear that China will be setting the carbon free agenda for other countries to follow in the years to come.
Helicopter filming at 5,000 metres has its challenges. Vertical take off was impossible and only the skill of our pilot, Andy Dean, kept us flying. Look out for those high voltage wires and heavy traffic ahead!
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5 Part Series for CCTV9 and Channel 4 (2016)