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Ji Dan

Release year: 2023

Run time: 237 mins

Film type: Documentary


Baya, in Zhuang language, means "grandmother." At the end of 2012, I attended a charity lecture in Beijing about left-behind children, where I heard the story of Baya and the grandchildren she raised. In early 2013, I arrived at the village of Debie, where Baya lived in a mountain hollow, and stayed at Baya's house.

At that time, I was going through the breakdown of an intimate relationship and found myself in a personal low point in my middle age. I was curious about how Baya had survived so many hardships and continued to provide shade, shelter, and warmth like a big tree for her grandchildren and the lives around her. During the year and eight months I spent with Baya, I unknowingly underwent a transformation. Not only did my body become stronger, but my inner self also became more open and freer. Through Baya, I came to understand the resilience and strength of the human spirit, which remains unaltered by any amount of suffering—a testament to the noble dignity of human nature.

Over the course of a decade, I experienced the passing of both my mother and Baya. Baya's numerous edits and the witnessing of life and death have led to a series of new discoveries in my understanding of life and death. The process of filming and editing a documentary that is so deeply intertwined with my own life has left me amazed and deeply moved.


Director biography

Born in 1963 in Heilongjiang. After graduating from Beijing Normal University, Ji Dan spent time in Japan from 1988, studying at Yokohama National University and at Kyoto Seika University. She later joined Asia Press International and in 1994 began producing independent documentaries. The Elder (1999), a film about Tibetan farmers, was shown at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and the Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival. Ji has also filmed many documentary programs for NHK television. She participated in the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival in 2003, as producer of the Ogawa Shinsuke Prize-winning . Wellspring (2002). Her . Dream of the Empty City (2007) was produced with support from the Pusan International Film Festival AND Fund.