What is this?
- We want to make a documentary film about children in China who are kidnapped and sold.
- We are China experts who have been writing about China for years.
- We have hit our minimum target but we do still need money to pay for equipment and travel expenses.
What is the film about? The kidnapping and selling of children has been a problem in China for decades. After the implementation of China's one child policy, some parents began to worry that a single child might not be enough to care for them in their old age. After the Cultural Revolution ended and China began to transition to a capitalist economy, criminal gangs stepped in to fill this demand for additional children by luring children away from their parents, kidnapping them, and selling them. Some are sold to new families, some into a life on the street. Girls may be sold into marriage or prostitution.
Of course, this is highly illegal, and in recent years the government has attempted to crack down on the process. But prosecutions are difficult; the children are often funneled through a web of middle men and they're generally too young to be particularly useful witnesses.
Children are still being kidnapped today. Families search for them through official channels, but also through a network of websites and volunteer organizations dedicated to reuniting families with lost children. At the same time, adults who were kidnapped as children and are old enough to remember it are attempting to find their original families. Stolen by kidnappers and raised by strangers, these adult men and women are now trying to do something they haven't done in decades: find their way home.
We want to chronicle this struggle and bring attention to the problem by filming a full length documentary following the struggles and successes of adult children looking for their original homes, stricken families searching for lost children, and the selfless volunteers who dedicate their lives to reuniting broken families. We hope that our film can attract attention that will bring help to the thousands of families struggling to cope with the theft of their child and the knowledge that their only child is probably being raised by someone else, simply because they were willing to pay.
For more background on the issue, check out this recent article in TIME magazine.
SOLD ALREADY? Scroll up to make a pledge now! If the project reaches our $5,000 goal, you'll have made a donation to a great film and you'll get some cool stuff, too! If we don't reach our goal, that means we can't make the film, and we won't receive the money you pledged (you get to keep it instead, but we appreciate it anyway!)
Who are we? We're an international team of China experts. Some of us are Chinese; others have been studying the language, culture, and society for years. We have made several documentary shorts, but because we've never had a budget and have shot in very limited timeframes, what we can accomplish is fairly limited. I'm still very proud of our efforts, though: you can see our latest one, Kedong County, here. We run a successful and popular blog that translates interesting Chinese blog posts and offers analysis and commentary on current events and Chinese social issues. For making this film, I think we've got the best possible team we could have. I don't think there's anyone else out there who could make a movie about this topic as well as we will, because we have the know-how and the connections to get the access we need and get things done in China, plus the passion and the creative talent it takes to make a great, great film.
How will you make the film? We've already done a lot of research and are continuing to make connections and interview people about this issue. Soon, we'll start shooting preliminary footage and "casting" to figure out which people and families it will be best for us to follow. Once we get the equipment we need, we can start really shooting the film. How long that will take is difficult to say. We're going to follow several people and several families in the hopes that sometime in the next year, at least a couple of them find their lost children (which does happen). Once we've got the footage we need to tell these children's stories, then it's time to start writing and editing the film. Many of us are professional writers of one sort of another, so I trust we'll be able to take the footage we've shot and craft a script that does justice to the people in the film. After editing (and scoring the film, mixing the sound, subtitling it in English and in Chinese, etc), it will be done! All in all, we expect the process to take around two years, but it could be quicker. We want this film to reflect the truth, so we'll take as much time as is needed to ensure that the stories we're telling are complete, accurate, and compelling.
So what do you need the money for?: Several things. First, equipment. While we have some of the things we need already, to shoot a feature length film we're going to need more. The main items on our list are a good portable HD camcorder that shoots in 24p, a set of wireless lav mics so that we can stay attached to our subjects as they're moving around without connecting them to the camera with wires, and a number of smaller accessories (extra batteries, extra memory cards, a wind-blocking "blimp" for our shotgun microphone, etc.). If you're interested, feel free to get in touch with me (custerc at chinageeks.org) and I will give you a complete rundown of the specific stuff we're looking for.
Second, while we haven't made final decisions yet about who we're going to film, and there's no way for us to know where their searches are going to lead them, there's a good chance that shooting this film is going to require fairly extensive travel. If one of our subjects hears his original family is living in a rural village in southern Anhui, we need to be able to pick up and leave at a moment's notice so that we can be sure we don't miss that joyful reunion. We want the film to go wherever our subjects go, which means we can't be limited to staying in Beijing just because we can't afford train or plane tickets.
Third, While we can edit the film ourselves, we'll need to get someone else to do the music for it. We have some great connections in the Beijing music scene, so we're not worried about finding the right person for the job, but scoring a whole film is hard work, and if we want it done right we're going to have to pay at least a little for it.
Plus, everything else. If I've learned anything from the short pieces I've made so far, it's that the unexpected can and does happen. We need money for food and housing for sudden travel, and money to replace basic equipment quickly in case it breaks.
IMPORTANT NOTE: $5,000 is the absolute minimum I think we need to make the film, that would cover the cost of a good semi-pro HD camcorder, extra batteries, and extra media. Realistically though, we'll be much more free to make the film we want to make if we can get closer to $10,000, which would allow us to get wireless microphones and other accessories while still saving money for things like travel and post-production costs like finding a composer or licensing some of the excellent local music. Since Kickstarter allows fundraising to continue even after our $5,000 goal is reached, please don't stop donating if we hit that mark!
How do you plan to publicize and distribute this film once it's finished? Our goal here is not to make money, it is to get as many people as humanly possible to see this film so that we can draw more attention to the problem of kidnapping, and maybe even find some solutions. Given that, we will distribute the film through any and every avenue available to us, which means film festivals, private screenings, DVD distribution, special showings at schools, and heavy promotion through the internet. Our blog already boasts quite a large readership and is followed by almost all the major media outlets that report on China. We're also friendly with quite a number of people in the media who cover China.
We're dedicated to making this film, and we're dedicated to making sure that people everywhere see it. We truly believe this film will make a positive impact by bringing more attention and help to the children and families who are separated and suffering. Please help us help these people by making a contribution to our film today. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and assure you that you will not regret it!
Please send any questions you may have to custerc (at) chinageeks.org
If you care about this issue and also want to donate to organizations that help fight kidnapping and return missing children, we recommend Baby Come Home. They don't speak English, but we would be happy to assist you in making your donation.
- (35 days)