Ethical Choices, Accidental Heroes: Reconstruction of AIDS Discourse in Yang Ziye's The Blood of Yingzhou District

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Weber: The Contemporary West






Weber State University

Publication Date

Spring 1-1-2015

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Before making her Oscar-winning documentary on AIDS orphans in rural China, The Blood of Yingzhou District (2007), Yang Ziye edited Hollywood films such as Joan Chen's Autumn in New York and Wayne Wong's Joy Luck Club. Regarding the differences between film editing and the making of documentary as "taking an accidental shot of real life," she observes: "Editing feature films is much easier. The emphasis is on the craft and you just need to bring out what the director envisions; but in documentary, you don't have any control of your subjects. You just let the story unfold on its own." This essay investigates how The Blood of Yingzhou District reconstructs China's AIDS discourse and the processes in which such discourse regulates social practices. As one critic comments: "Shot with small-format cameras entirely by Chinese film crews, The Blood of Yingzhou District achieves a level of intimacy and candor rarely seen in documentary work from China" (see Cinema Guild). Yang maneuvered the filming process carefeully to avoid the risk of governmental interference, since the film's subject is about rural children affected by AIDS. In an earlier documentary, Julia's Story, Yang had interviewed a young university student who confessed that she had contracted the HIV virus through sexual contact with her American boyfriend. In both of Yang's films, audiences perceive a thoughtful negotation of what, in documentary ethics, is often termed a "three-way relationship" between the filmmaker, the filmed subjects or social actors, and their viewers (Nichols 59).

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