|Lou Yixiao takes a selfie with residents of Goulanyao Village in Jiangyong County, Hunan Province. [For China Daily]|
An ordinary person, with an extraordinary tale. A TV show that courageously puts the central character of each episode behind the scenes with their stories played out by actors. Therein lies the recipe for its success. The much-anticipated meeting of actors and the true-life characters at the denouement creates a full circle for the show and provides engaging entertainment. The show is in fact an odyssey. Like a Greek fable it is a journey that details the triumph of the human spirit.
In its first episode, produced by Hunan Satellite TV and which premiered on Aug 30, the program Youth on Record sees actress Lou Yixiao and actor Gu Zhixin set out on an adventure in search of a mysterious person named Jiang Xiaojun. They are also seeking stories and anecdotes about him with the task of reenacting his deeds on stage.
The journey begins at Goulanyao Village in Jiangyong County, Hunan Province, where clusters of redbrick houses are enveloped by the mountains and veiled in mist.
At the gateway to the village, the two are greeted by a group of women dressed in exquisitely ornate Yao ethnic costumes, singing in the local dialect. From these villagers, the duo receive their first clues about the mysterious figure and attempt to uncover the bigger picture.
Jiang Xiaojun seems to be a hero, as all the villagers they encountered extolled his virtues.
Jiang had, in fact, been a resident cadre working on poverty alleviation in the village from 2015 to 2018. By the end of 2016, all 153 poor households in the village had shaken off poverty, while the locale was accredited as a national-level tourist destination.
Lou says that when she talked with the villagers, "one of the most genuine things is that everyone's smiling," and they all viewed Jiang as their friend. "We were deeply moved when we saw the sincere emotions expressed by the villagers," Lou recalls. "I have to say that leading others to happiness is the greatest human endeavor."
|Actor Xu Yajun talks to people in Taibei Village, Jincheng City, Shanxi Province. [For China Daily]|
Youth on Record pays tribute to the young people who contributed to poverty alleviation by telling their stories. Following an unconventional structure, the central characters do not make an appearance for the vast majority of the program. Rather, their stories are gradually unraveled by celebrities who explore and uncover them during field trips to the villages.
In each episode, two actors go on a field trip to a remote village, learn about the history and culture of the area and discover the heroes' stories.
They then come back to the studio, and along with a group of other actors, stage the story as a short play in front of an audience. Only after the performance will the real-life protagonists be invited to make an appearance onstage.
According to co-producer of the show Yang Ziyang, the program does not introduce the main characters at the beginning in order to maintain a sense of curiosity.
"The journeys are not only for the actors to get to know the characters and construct images of the characters layer by layer, but also to show the dramatic changes of the countryside and the fruits of poverty alleviation," Yang says.
In the journey to Goulanyao Village presented in the first episode, the villagers expressed their contentment with the changes in the village and their everyday life. The muddy trails are now transformed into concrete roads, allowing the villagers to transport farm produce with cars instead of backbreaking and laborious means.
The villagers are also shown sampling life away from work. A folklore troupe was established to perform in a renovated ancient temple. And then there is the fish-catching competition. It takes a hardy soul, with excellent coordination, to plunge into the lake and catch fish with their bare hands.
In previous years this used to be a common scene at a regional farming festival. After Jiang came to the village, he discovered its potential to attract tourists and organized it into an event that takes place regularly.
|Actor Gu Zhixin is joined by Lou as he displays his freshly-caught fish. [For China Daily]|
10 true Tales
The program's 10 episodes, broadcast on Sundays, intend to present 10 examples of people who contributed to poverty alleviation in different ways. Other examples include Yang Shuting, a young woman with physical disabilities who opened up factories to create job opportunities, and Guo Jianping, a former Party secretary of Taibei Village in Shanxi Province's Jincheng who died in the line of duty, and his 23-year-old daughter Guo Zihan, who then took up the mantle.
"We decided upon the young poverty alleviation workers because they overcame huge challenges in the fields and mountains with their youth and enthusiasm. When we heard their stories, we were greatly moved and eager to present their stories to the audience," Yang says.
According to co-producer Liu Lei, at the preparation stage, the production team of more than 30 directors spent three months interviewing over a thousand people, making phone and video calls and researching material.
The team then gradually whittled them down to several dozen examples and went on field trips to conduct interviews on every villager involved with the central characters.
"Every time the directors came back with their interviews, we first asked them whether they were moved by these poverty alleviation workers, what aspects about them that moved them and what are their distinguishing characteristics," Liu says.
"The poverty alleviation work comprises projects over a course of several years, and compressing all these into a one-hour episode is very difficult. So we adopted this method of constantly piling up villagers' evaluations and uncovering the characters' deeds, and at the end reaching the climax with the stage play."
The highlight on young people also stems from the audience demographics. The main audience of Hunan TV is young people, says the show's executive producer Song Dian.
"Through the platform and with our program, we want to address the issue and inform them what is happening in our country," says Song. "That there is this group of people who have been working in remote areas of China and are changing the face of our countryside."
By showing the personal experiences and emotions of popular actors as they embark on such field trips and act out the stage plays, Song says he hopes more young people will be aware of the once poverty-stricken countryside and its people, to see the changes and feel their contentment as well.
(Source: China Daily)
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