The First Song documents the children who attend a kindergarten located on the inland mountain of Shandong Peninsula, China.
The freezing winter of the north locks people in. The classroom, which is less than ten square meters, is the whole world to these children. At a certain time of day, teachers will start boiling water for the children, who would line up spontaneously next to one another to collect their share. This ceremonious ritual enthuses them.
These children demonstrate a thirst for money for reasons we don't delve into for the time being. However, the thirst for money permeates in their games, which imitate their parents' logging trade activities. Every child plays his or her role to the perfection.
Holidays begin soon after the first snow falls and the kindergarten building takes on another function. During Chinese New Year, it becomes the communal shrine for the whole village, with elders watching over the temporary altar set up on the children’s desks and chairs. As the adults celebrate the New Year in their own way, what lies ahead for these children?
The children are idealistic and romantic by nature, and it is with these qualities they view the world around them. At such a tender age, they're unable to understand the complexities of life, or the rights and wrongs in the adult world. What they do understand is their own needs and desires. The complex mixture of innocent and serious expressions of these children probe us to rethink about the village’s reality.
About the Director
SHI Yu-bin was born in 1990. He graduated from the Communication University of Shanxi with a degree in TV cinematography and currently resides in Beijing. He spent his youth in the hills of Pingdu City, Shandong Province. It is perhaps due to these hills, which slow down the winds of revolution, that he has lived a different childhood from his contemporaries. As the world he lives in changes constantly and drastically, he tries to document what he has encountered and experienced.
2011 The Sad Boss
From the Director
I cannot deny that we started out filming with the intention to demonstrate how much these inland children suffer from harsh environment and economical unjust. The original idea seems to be ridiculous and even shameful when we actually began the shooting. To the contrary of what most people would assume, these children are happy and content without a slightest resentment. Then, we adjusted our attitudes and retreated our camera into observing their daily life and documenting the seemingly ordinary but happy innocent life – something we want to convey to the audience as much as we could.
During the filming process, we become friends with these children. It is easy to befriend with them as long as you have something to attract them with. Their natural curiosity towards cameras and boom microphones enable us to bond with them quickly. Because of the bonding, they are able to let go in front of cameras quickly and lower their guards, showing us generously of who they are. And then the shooting becomes much easier.
Yet, adults certainly have some influence on the children’s world. The most intriguing things happened in the film is the game they play imitating their fathers dealing with logging trade. Not all the trading is done by the book. Children are not aware of the illegal dealing of their fathers. They simply act it out fully in their made up games as events they observe daily.
※ The 2nd DC Chinese Film Festival 2014, Audience Choice Award Documentary Short
※ The 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival, 2014
※ The 5th Dalian Art Film Festival, DAFF, 2014