This year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of China-UK diplomatic relations. It’s been about 150 years since the first Chinese settlers arrived in Britain,
A documentary telling the stories of the five generations of Chinese people in the country is being released in Britain.
The documentary, entitled “Talk of Home” was produced by C Cubed Media Limited, an independent production and consulting media company based in London.
Bai Fan is the founder of the company and executive producer of the documentary.
He says “Talk of Home” gained inspiration from the 2010 UK General Election, which had an unprecedented eight British-Chinese prospective parliamentary candidates.
“From the seamen, to the take-away runner; now we have eight British-Chinese people running for parliament. I think it means something, it proves something because the British-Chinese community is changing a lot.”
Bai says Chinese people have been coming to the UK for the past 150 years, but no one has ever tried to record their process of adaptation in a country with such a vastly different culture. So, he decided to use the documentary to reveal the real community of British-Chinese people.
Bai adds that “Talk of Home” is the first documentary talking about the British-Chinese community from a British angle.
“To talk about British-Chinese, we have quite a lot of documentaries telling the stories of overseas Chinese already. If we can, obviously, we’d like more British people and western people to see how Chinese people actually get involved in their society; what we are doing in their society.”
Bai therefore invited a British documentary production team to shoot the film.
David Dickson is director of the documentary.
“Initially the idea is looking at an emerging culture, because the Chinese had been a community being abstracted from normal British mainstream life. And suddenly in the last few years, the Chinese have emerged into the light to take center stage as a community and as individuals, and I was curious to know how that happened and why that happened. And the documentary explores this idea and hopefully answers these questions. ”
To find the answers to these questions, the documentary chronicles the arrival of the first Chinese settlers in Britain 150 years ago through to modern day Chinese communities, and the integral role they play in the fabric of British society.
At the very beginning, Bai Fan and Director David Dickson differed on their opinions as to what the documentary should focus on.
“The British Chinese Community and the Chinese media were focusing on this general election, the eight Chinese people running for parliament. So David, as a British citizen and a western director, he’s not going to think it’s a big deal. What the mainstream audience is focusing on is not whether it’s going to be Chinese MP or not. It’s just going to be concerned whether the candidate is Conservative or Labour, or which party is going to take over the next government.”
Therefore, instead of purely talking about Chinese politicians, the documentary focused on the general British-Chinese community as a whole.
The team spent nearly two years shooting in both the UK and China.
They interviewed more than 30 Chinese people in Britain and finally chose nearly 20 of them to tell their stories in the documentary.
Among them are Olympic horse-rider Alex Hua Tian, the Chinese ambassador in Britain, overseas Chinese students in the UK, and a number of Chinese restaurant owners.
For both the director and the executive producer, making this documentary also allowed them to learn more about the British-Chinese community.
“Making this film has taught me that ethnicity and assimilation are creative pursuits. The groups and individuals can recreate their identity; they can take elements from their new residents, from their own ancient history and elect to combine them in a particular way to reinvent themselves. ”
“One common thing about the 30 British Chinese people interviewed is that if you want to do something good, if you want to allow your next generation to have a better life, to have a better education, you have to work really, really hard. It’s about two or three times or four times harder than the local British People.”
The 58-minute-long documentary will be aired on a major TV channel in the UK and its Chinese version will be aired on the Chinese mainland.