Young and Restless in China: Docu by Sue Williams

Narrated by ERs Ming Wen, YOUNG & RESTLESS IN CHINA follows nine young people from across the country for four years, giving audiences an in-depth, very personal look at a unique and rapidly changing society. Through interviews and cinema verit footage, the film charts the surprising twists and turns of the characters lives as they pursue their hopes and dreams for success and as they encounter conflict, love, success and confusion. Written, Produced, and Directed by Sue Williams, the docu will be released in select theaters in May 2008.

Directors Statement

Ive already made four films about the history of twentieth century China. It was an extraordinarily complex, violent and dramatic period. Today the country is astonishingly different. It appears to be quite stable politically and it feels energetic, ambitious, vibrant, confused, a raw mix of rich and poor, modernity and tradition. I wanted to get to know the young generation that is embracing these changes and that will be running the country in a few years.

Talking to Diverse People

I wanted to talk with all different sorts of people: the ones making our cell phones, doing international business, trying to save the environment, working in fashion and music. So in 2004 we began to follow nine people and have returned every year since to get updates, see how their jobs and personal relationships are unfolding, how they are changing, and how they see themselves. The plan is to make a series of 5 films over 20 years, until 2024, following these same characters. Young & Restless in China is the first episode.

Personal Film

China has always been on my personal radar screen. My grandparents lived there for many years and my mother was born and raised in Shanghai. I grew up hearing about China and I first visited in 1980. But I never imagined I would make one film after another there. I have visited China more than two dozen times now, and over the years have seen many of the extraordinary changes as they were happening.

What keeps me returning is the people, their extraordinary stories and their courage and generosity in sharing them with me. The generation now in their 1970s and older, those who fought and lived through the Communist Revolution, have experienced so much in terms of violence, idealism, betrayal; they have suffered in ways it is hard to comprehend and yet somehow they survived. Their children, the Red Guard generation, are my contemporaries; they were like Mao Zedongs toys: nurtured, manipulated, twisted and tossed away. Somehow they too survived and I have great respect for them.

China’s Young Generation

Todays young people are a unique generation, ambitious, much more self centered and demanding, and at the same time both confused and aware of how privileged they are in the context of Chinas history. Every time I go to China I seem to meet more people with stories that amaze me and that, as a filmmaker, I want to bring back and share with audiences here.

Mysterious Place

For most Americans, China remains a difficult, mysterious place. In every film I have tried to let Chinese people tell their history and their personal stories. Ive not filtered them through the prisms of US policy concerns or economic interests. I hope the people in Young & Restless in China will show Americans how much we have in common. I hope audiences will see that, while our cultures appear very different, when you go below the surface you find we are all concerned about the same things: family, jobs, healthcare, housing, education for our children. We like sports, we listen to the same music, we search for relationships and love.

In the larger context, this realization is very important. Our two countries and peoples are so interconnected now that we cannot hide behind political rhetoric and knee-jerk suspicions. When people are aware of their shared interests, it makes it easier to work together on the critical problems we all face, like health pandemics, global warming and the collapsing environment.