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Serbian director explores different angle in film about Yiwu, China

Yiwu International Trade City (22)

Serbian director explores different angle in film about Yiwu, China

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SARAJEVO, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) — “I was always looking for an angle to tell a Chinese story that was different from the ones told in previous Western films, but that would appeal to Western audiences,” Serbian director Mladen Kovacevic said in a recent written interview with Xinhua.

In August, Kovacevic’s documentary “Merry Christmas, Yiwu” won the best documentary award at the 26th Sarajevo Film Festival, which focuses on the hundreds of factories producing Christmas ornaments in Yiwu, a famous small commodity production and trade center in Southeast China’s Zhejiang Province.

Instead of a grand narrative, the movie showcases the ordinary lives of ordinary people through slow, prosaic images of everyday life, presenting a calm and heartwarming picture of China’s social development.

In the film, both the local people and migrants from other provinces working in Yiwu are happy, conflicted and troubled, but they all keep moving forward, hoping for a better life.

“Yiwu is a famous international trade city,” said Kovacevic. “Hundreds of factories, large and small, produce Christmas ornaments made by ordinary Chinese workers, and eventually make their way into the homes of the West.”

“Christmas is the most important family holiday in the West. It would be fascinating to think that there is a city in China that produces two thirds of the world’s Christmas decorations,” he said, noting “Yiwu is an ideal entry point for me to tell Chinese stories from different perspectives.”

In 2017, Kovacevic came to China for the first time to do preliminary research for the documentary, and he felt the pulse of China’s development in Yiwu.

“The wages of Yiwu workers are now several times those of (workers in) Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The working conditions in many factories are no different from those in Western countries,” he said. “China is saying goodbye to the era of cheap labor.”

The director said he has seen a lot of documentaries about China’s economic miracle from a Western perspective, and there are a lot of stereotypes about China.

Believing that people want to see the truth about China, Kovacevic said that as a director, he has to be honest about what he sees and thinks.

“Merry Christmas, Yiwu” not only won over the festival jury, but also many Chinese fans. The film’s conscious effort to break away from the stereotypical Western perspective has been highly appreciated by viewers.

“I didn’t expect a European director to make Yiwu so authentic,” a girl from Yiwu who now lives in France said on social media.

Now Kovacevic is preparing for a new film called “Another Spring,” which is about a smallpox pandemic that broke out in the former Yugoslavia in 1972, the last outbreak before smallpox was wiped out in Europe.

“There is no better time to reflect on the fate of humanity by replicating the pandemic of half a century ago,” the director said. Enditem

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