Video: Filmmaker Returns Home to Site of Sichuan Earthquake to Tell Town's Tale


This week marks the fifth anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake that killed more than 90,000 in China. Thousands of the dead were school children, children of China’s one-child policy. ChinaFile marks this anniversary with a new video: The Reborn of Beichuan.

This web documentary tells the story of two families from Beichuan, one of the towns hardest hit by the quake, as they try to move beyond the devastation.

I met the director Zijian Mu and learned he was born and raised in Beichuan. His father taught for more than 15 years at the Beichuan Middle School, where more than 1,500 students died during the earthquake. Mu lost close family members in the earthquake, a personal toll that filled him with the urge to follow this story even years after the immediate disaster. Though he has returned many times, Mu's family left Beichuan and moved to another city when his mother got a work promotion.

In 2011 Mu came to New York City and enrolled in the news and documentary masters program Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. When it was time for him to decide on a final project he chose to tell a story that was very close to him even though he had moved far away. In the summer of 2012 he returned to Sichuan and asked former residents of Beichuan if he could tell their stories. His film One Child was shot between the months of May and September 2012.

For ChinaFile Mu and I edited a shorter version. You can watch it above or read more about The Reborn of Beichuan on ChinaFile.