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Nowhere to Call Home, February 2015

Zanta and Jocelyn in Beijing. Still image by Alice Carfrae

Thursday 19 February 2015, 6.15-8.00pm

Venue: Graham Wallas Room, Old Building
Speaker: Jocelyn Ford, Director of Nowhere to Call Home
Chair: Dr Mayling Birney

Nowhere to Call Home: with Jocelyn Ford

The Department of International Development celebrated Chinese New Year by screening the riveting documentary, 'Nowhere to Call Home', followed by a Q&A session with the film’s director, Jocelyn Ford.

The award-winning documentary, released last year, provides a rare insight into the life of a traditional Tibetan farmer who migrates to Beijing in search of an education for her son and freedom from hidebound village patriarchy.

Shot in the slums of Beijing and a remote Tibetan village, this gripping story of a woman determined to beat the odds puts a human face on the political and social strife that fractures China and Tibet.

The film has won rare acclaim from both Tibetans and Han Chinese in the People’s Republic of China.  It was also received international acclaim. In an article entitled "Inspiring Dialogue, Not Dissent, in China," the New York Times said that the film “breaks down the sometimes romantic Shangri-La view that Westerners have of Tibet” and that it “offers a shocking portrait of the outright racism... Tibetans face in Chinese parts of the country".

The screening was followed by a discussion with Director Jocelyn Ford, the former Beijing and Tokyo bureau chief for the U.S. public radio show Marketplace. She has been based in East Asia for three decades, as a journalist and more recently as a filmmaker.

Her groundbreaking reporting on "comfort women" in the 1990s was a catalyst for raising awareness about World War II abuses of women by Japan's military.

During the three years of filming Nowhere to Call Home, Ms. Ford overcame restrictions on access to Tibetan communities to shine light on the complex choices facing Tibetan farmers living in contemporary China.


Images of the evening and watchers' responses to the film can be found below.





...I used to do a little bit of volunteer work with an NGO trying to help children go to school in remote rural Ningxia, a Hui area, and I think some of these issues there were quite similar even though most places I visited appeared a little less cut off than Zanta’s home. I felt that the scene with the police and the landlord had a similar effect – I think anyone who’s lived in China and encountered the police there can relate to that; and it seemed important to me that while Zanta could claim to have been treated unfairly, the responses she got from the landlord and the police made you see that they, too, felt under all kinds of pressure, and might be seen as victims of the overall system with its unfairness, coerciveness, and weak legal protections. I’ve worked with and on human rights lawyers in China, and watching the film I can imagine that they would not have so much difficulty understanding many of Zanta’s issues...

...My primary research interest concerns a man who, to the best of our knowledge, did not have a family of his own, and therefore learnt about family values by living and engaging with other families. There's an astonishing parallel evident in this documentary. Director Jocelyn Ford confessedly tries to remain detached, but finds herself unable to do so, as the enduring traits of hardship and sacrifice weigh heavily upon the conscience. It’s this openness that lends the documentary such credibility, and that itself is important when we’re trying to understand the depth of suspicion that exists between indigenous populations. It’s a tense film to watch, but occasionally comical as well: Yang Qing’s grandfather telling him to stay clear of the larger Chinese children and beat up the smaller ones elicited quite a response. Overall, ‘Nowhere to Call Home’ is a thoughtful exploration of why we can see the rules of survival differently, and how these rules begin to blur between fractious communities...