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One Day in May

Ma Zhandong

Release year: 2011

Run time: 145 minutes

Film type: Documentary


This documentary was filmed and produced, independently, in one and half years following the catastrophic earthquake of May 12, 2008, in Sichuan Province, China.

How was society changed by this sudden disaster? In addition to a collective response to the disaster by the state and organizations, what was the cold reality faced by every individual whose life was forever changed by the disaster? How could survivors be courageous enough to build a post-disaster life? How can we, as outsiders, truly understand the feeling of helplessness and the determination of people after their hopes for life were destroyed so abruptly?

The film tries to record the life of an ordinary Sichuan family affected by the quake. Behind their optimism and hidden grief, we try to unveil a true picture of life in rural China. We see both the fragility and the brightness of humanity amidst a major disaster. But when a memorial service is turned into a celebration, and conscience is absent as memories fade, how can those individuals manage to move on?

Any individual may be used to represent a country, a nation, or a region, especially because we are used to a mainstream perspective which often ignores the value of individuals. However, we respect this value, as well as the meaning of the struggle of those who were previously ignored. Only from this cumulative individual perspective can we see a true, bigger picture of this devastating disaster in human history. This one day in May might just have been a normal day in a normal May in your life. But for others, this very day was long enough to last forever.


Director biography

Ma Zhandong is an independent documentary producer who has filmed and produced tens of documentary films, long and short. His works have been screened at film festivals in Germany, the Netherlands, Iceland, Denmark, France, Japan and Hong Kong. He has also made short art films and videos. He was interviewed by ARTE in 2009. He served as a final film juror for the 14th Beijing Independent Film Exhibition in China and as a shortlisting juror for the 12th FIRST Youth Film Exhibition.

His work One Day in May won the best documentary award in 2011 at the Chinese Documentary Festival in Hong Kong. Lao Zhao won the Documentary Humanitarian Award at the 12th China Independent Film Festival. Everybody is Nobody won the 33th ATP Award for Excellence in Tokyo).

Now he lives and works in Chengdu, China.