Premiering on Hunan Satellite TV and the video-streaming platform, Mango TV, on Jan 10, the 31-episode drama series tells the story of how Pu Quansheng and Sha Ou, two 30-something resident cadres working toward poverty alleviation, help to change the fortunes of Wanmixi, a backward but picturesque－fictional－village deep in the mountains.
It follows the trials, tribulations and victories of the pair as they strive to improve the education of “left-behind” children, help develop local agriculture, lead the establishment of e-commerce sales channels, as well as facilitating the improvement of the basic infrastructure of the village. Most importantly, though, it’s about how they win the hearts and minds of the villagers in their charge.
The cast, including actor Luo Jin, actress Yuan Shanshan and host-turned-actress Shen Mengchen, were required to immerse themselves in rural life to learn farm work and the local customs in Hunan’s Xiangxi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture before they started to play the roles. Luo says he was keen to get closer to the people to show how they live to the wider public.
The scriptwriter Wang Chenggang once spent three months traveling across Hunan province’s mountainous areas to interview more than 100 cadres working on poverty alleviation and observe the lives of the rural residents to gather materials and inspiration for the show’s storyline. The interviewees’ stories were recorded and edited into short, 3-minute-long videos that appear at the end of each episode.
Based on the real stories of villagers striving to lift themselves out of poverty, Wang has created a script which features a very representative mix of impoverished characters including a lazy bachelor, a drunkard, an old man wallowing in superstition and a couple that have three children, more than the family planning policy allows.
“The script portrays in detail the stories of 17 main characters whose desire to get out of poverty and embrace a better life is aroused by the young cadres. They are then motivated to make the change happen,” says Wang.
Exemplary deeds in the country’s poverty alleviation campaign have been widely reported in the media in recent years, from which dozens of films and drama series about the campaign drew their materials.
“Although we share similar material, which are more of the same, I want to figure out a way to make my work different from other poverty alleviation-themed productions,” says An Jian, director of the drama series A Land So Rich in Beauty.
After conducting investigations in villages and discussing with scholars who study rural issues, An holds that the key to poverty reduction lies in changing people’s minds.
“It’s essential to help the dwellers of backward, remote villages to overcome inertia and develop a stronger passion for life,” says An.
Many poverty alleviation productions have highlighted statistics that reflect the rural areas’ industrial development and the increase of villagers’ income. However, the production team decided to focus on presenting the personal growth of the characters and avoid portraying stereotypical versions of cadres and villagers, says An.
For instance, in the drama series, a middle-aged, lazy bachelor in the village, who is used to relying on government subsidies, becomes a hardworking beekeeper and develops the courage to pursue the affections of his crush. The changes in his psychology throughout this metamorphosis will be described with subtlety, promises the director.
To find a secluded location that fits the image of the fictitious Wanmixi village, the production design team visited 400 or so villages in Hunan province. Finally, they settled on Mudixi village in Zhang Jiajie, which hosts a majority of the on-location scenes.
“Every day, we commuted by road for more than five hours between the film set and where we were staying in the city,” recalls An, adding that the narrow and rugged mountain road with its twists and turns took a toll on their cars that sometimes broke down along the way.
“Then it was always tricky for us to find parking for all of the vehicles in the steep, mountainous area,” he adds.
Despite these unfavorable conditions, the production unit still successfully completed the work. In An’s view, the drama series provides a perfect example of how these remote villages in and around the Xiangxi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture get out of poverty.
He says he hopes the series will encourage more young people to use their talent to bring positive changes to rural areas across the country.
Source: By Xing Wen | China Daily | Updated: 2021-01-18 06:59