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2007 Academy Award® winner for Best Documentary Short Subject, The Blood of Yingzhou District is a groundbreaking documentary film which exposes the hidden AIDS epidemic in China, a country not commonly associated with this disease.
No one knows how old Gao Jun is. Four? Older? Younger? Whatever his biological age, he has none of the verbal babble or ready tears of a child his age. Orphaned when both his parents died of AIDS, Gao Jun is himself infected with the disease.
Director Ruby Yang and producer Thomas Lennon follow Gao Jun for a period of one year as he is moved from foster home to foster home while his closest surviving kin – his uncles – weigh what to do with him. The older uncle’s dilemma: if he allows his own children to play with Gao Jun, they will be ostracized by terrified neighbors. The younger uncle’s dilemma: so long as Gao Jun remains in the house, the young man may not be able to find a wife. Gao Jun is just one of a handful of children we come to know in this extraordinary film, Nan Nan, who after her parents’ death, was shunned by relatives and left to live without adult care with her teenage sister; and the Huang siblings, who vividly describe their ostracism at school.
At the same time, the film exposes the tragedy of the impoverished Chinese as they are practically forced to donate blood in order to eke out a living, ignorant of the unsafe medical practices that would cause them to contract AIDS. In many of these cases for a mere sum of 50 Yuan (approximately US$6), they end up passing the disease to their children. As the parents die, they often leave their children shunned by family, friends and society to live as outcasts on the fringe of society. Yet the film is more than a mere catalogue of woes. Nan Nan reveals her impish humor and joy; the Huang children resolve to become educated and outstrip those who shun them; and Gao Jun, in the closing scenes, demonstrates his ferocious determination to live.
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.
Directed by Ruby Yang
Produced by Thomas Lennon
2006, 40 minutes
* Academy Award®, Best Documentary – Short Subject, 79th Academy Awards Ceremony
* Excellence in Media Award, Global Health Council Annual International Conference, 2007
* Winner, Audience Award, Thessaloniki International Documentary Film Festival, 2007
* Winner, Grand Jury Award, Silverdocs Documentary Festival, 2006
* Winner, Humanitarian Award, Chicago International Documentary Festival, 2007
* Winner, Jury Prize, Documenta Madrid Film Festival, 2007
* Winner, Jury Prize, RiverRun International Film Festival, 2007
* Official Selection, Margaret Mead Film Festival, 2006
* Official Selection, United Nations Association Film Festival, 2006