22-year-old Jolin in Dongguan tries to escape from the manufacturing and sex industries, dreams of becoming an actress in Shanghai by taking plastic surgery.
Dongguan, simultaneously the manufacturing hub and inadvertent sex capital of China; it is home to 1.7 million female factory workers, 300,000 of which comprised of former factory girls turned sex workers. Since the government crackdown on prostitution in 2014, an increasingly growing number of women seek to flee Dongguan – and the stigma associated with it. It is here that 22-year-old country girl, Jolin, has worked for the past five years, and where her story begins. The documentary focuses on a former factory girl, 22-year-old Jolin, who is the only child of her family and has found work as a stripper in Dongguan. She undergoes risky plastic surgery to look more “sexy” and tries to find her estranged father for reasons that go beyond healing her fractured family. She hopes to leave Dongguan behind and become a famous actress in Shanghai.
STORY OF THE PRODUCTION
It’s a developing project inspired by our co-directed MFA thesis film Factory Girls. In order to get an access to the factory and build trust with factory workers, we worked in two Japanese factories’ assembly lines for a month; standing 12 hours per day for a 2 USD-per-hour pay.
This project is originally inspired by American writer Leslie T. Chang’s ‘New York Time’s Bestseller Book in 2008’ Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China and Chinese writer Ding Yan’s book Factory Girl. These two different perspectives provide us a distinctive way to see Dongguan’s prostitution issue occurred in the early 2014. By developing our thesis film, we spent one more year to add a deeper layer to our film. We’ve been co-worked on this project for almost two years. We’re pursuing a more comprehensive understanding of our representative characters and a more thorough landscape of Dongguan.
Since Jolin’s story seems to be a Chinese version of Sister Carrie, we are trying to achieve both the oriental and western audiences who care about Chinese female migrant workers and female sex workers’ living condition and social status. We are aiming at depicting South China’s society, exploring younger generation’s values with unique character studies and updating information about social issues in Mainland China, which will probably attract a lot of audience who are interested in Asian based social issues. We are also pursuing a kind of subtle feminist tone to reveal Chinese women’s devalued social status in morden China.
WHY THIS FILM IS BEING MADE
After Siyan Liu worked on a documentary for CCTV-9, casting characters for a story about a state-owned factory, she came up with the idea of making a film about Chinese migrant workers. In 2014, researching for her thesis pitch, she found out the Chinese Central Government had cracked down on the sex trade of Dongguan. Dongguan is both the manufacturing hub and sex capital of China. It has 1.7 million female factory workers and 300,000 female sex workers. Most of the sex workers were once factory girls. Faced with such an intense subject, she asked her classmate Danni Wang to co-direct. Fortunately, Danni was also very interested in this topic, and they began their collaboration.
As a female filmmaker with a journalism background, Siyan Liu could see the crackdown on the sex trade would make lives for the Dongguan women even more difficult. Siyan already knew work in the factories was a hard life. Her grandma is a retired state-owned factory worker. So she felt obliged to tell the story of these women. Her partner Danni Wang grew up in Shenzhen, an immigrant city near Dongguan. In the beginning, Danni felt fulfilled making a documentary about her hometown. And she is proficient in the local language - Cantonese.