Posts Tagged With: National Geographic

Collaborating with National Geographic to film “Under One Roof”

After almost a week in Kunming, I once again arrived in Lugu Lake, and this time with my friend, Zhou Yang. When I shared with him that I planned to help out a crew sponsored by National Geographic, he asked if they needed a driver (he owns a “bread car”). They did. A week later, we drove up together and met up with the team. The day we arrived, we got to know their plan of action and viewed the three filmmakers taking shots of everyday life in the fast developing town of Lige village, Lugu Lake. I wasn’t expecting to spend the rest of the month devoting my time and energy into making this documentary, but it was worth it.

The team includes:

1) Ricky Qi: Ricky is the director and overall leader for this project. He graduated from UCLA in the late 2000s majoring in international relations. He first dabbled in law before pursuing his love for film. He received a scholarship through National Geographic to film this documentary (he also collected more funding through indiegogo). He gives off the chill California vibe when you talk with him. He’s well-spoken and a very motivated individual, which shows in his enthusiasm for this project. He administered the majority of the interviews, prepared daily shooting schedules, and figured out the direction he wanted this documentary to follow. He’s got his priorities in check.

2) Daniel Zhao: Daniel is a native of LA and close friends with Ricky. He’s a talented filmmaker with a lot of experience under his belt: music videos, commercials, and major films (Iron Man 3). He is the director of photography for this documentary, as well as overall clown. He seems to make the entire group laugh from his quick wit or goofiness. But, the moment the camera is recording, his personality takes a complete 360 and becomes very, very professional. He also added a lot to the interviews. When Ricky or I ran out of things to ask, he always asked the right questions that opened up the interview into something we weren’t expecting.

3) Ankur Poseria: Ankur is a Midwest boy at heart, but moved to California and has now immersed himself into LA culture. He also graduated from UCLA with Ricky Qi majoring in international relations, as well as trained with his swimming coach for the Olympics. Before pursuing his professional career goals, he committed full-time to swimming. He attended competitions around the world, the most well-known being the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Afterwards, he pursued a career in tech for many years before falling back into his beloved hobby, film. This opportunity to do sound for this documentary has introduced him back into the film industry.

4) Zhou Yang: (my friend and driver) Born in rural Hunnan, he worked on a farm and went to school. He graduated from high school in 2008. Instead of going to college, he moved to Guangdong province with his parents where he made his own one-man delivery company. He worked there for four years until moving to Lijiang, Yunnan Province by himself to find a different pace of life. He worked in a guest house in the ancient city. We met in Lugu Lake when he just moved. He was traveling around with tourists for his job. We have stayed friends since. He is currently trying to buy land on the shores of Lugu Lake and make his own guest house.

5) Colleen O’Connor: (me) I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis, MN and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in Summer 2012 with a Bachelor of Philosophy in Chinese. I received a 2012-2013 Fulbright Research Grant to China to study cultural preservation and ethnic tourism management methods in the Lugu Lake area. For this project, my responsibility was to escort the team to a rural Mosuo village. After the trip, I joined the crew, becoming the team’s “anthropologist.” I primarily assisted and observed interviews, but also helped out whenever they needed a hand on site.

The goal for the film is to document modern Mosuo society. The Mosuo live around Lugu Lake, a major tourist destination. As a result, the ethnic group is confronting a crossroads in their society: tradition vs. modernity. The once isolated group has now encountered rapid tourism development, which is changing aspects of their way of life. How have the Mosuo of Lige village transitioned from traditional culture to a modern lifestyle? How has tourism development changed Mosuo society and their outlook on contemporary life? This documentary follows the lives of Mosuo in both developed Lugu Lake and a rural village in Sichuan province to paint a picture of what it is to be ethnic in modern society.

Check out the trailer for “Under One Roof” here.

I became part of the team a month into their 2-month long production. The month before, they hit the ground running revising their project’s aims and goals, while experiencing quite a few obstacles on the way. When we first met, I had just returned from a week-long visit to a rural village where I was studying traditional Mosuo culture and their language. That night, I introduced them to my local friends at a BBQ shop. This is where the project took a sudden turn. My friend, YE, shared with us his observations on the changes he has witnessed living around Lugu Lake his entire life. Most importantly, he brought up the concept of desire that he believes has greatly affected the minds of the people. When I came back a week later, the team began following him, the BBQ owners, as well as other players in Lige society.

I’m incredibly grateful to have participated with the filming of “Under One Roof” because I gained a much deeper understanding of Mosuo culture, as well as garnered close relationships with the people of Lige village. If you want to learn more about our month-long collaboration, check out my future blog posts that will document our experience in much more detail.

[This explanation is my own perspective on the project. If you want to get more accurate information, you should contact Ricky Qi. Please comment on this post with your email address and I’ll give him your contact information. If you would like to support the project, check out their indiegogo account. Remember to like us on Facebook on follow us on Twitter!]

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