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When the Bough Breaks

Ji Dan

Release year: 2011

Run time: 144 mins

Film type: Documentary


“When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all”. Ji Dan, one of the most important female filmmakers in China, borrowed the title for her at times startling new film from the cautionary lullaby Rock-a-bye Baby. In 2004, at a school for migrant children in Beijing, she met four children from one family. The children, aged between 10 and 19, lived with their parents in a ramshackle slum while the tuition fees were paid by the school.

By 2009, when she started filming, the situation had changed: there were now three children and amidst all the economic bustle, they were confronted with the limited choices that life has to offer. In turn, the filmmaker was confronted with the gap between herself and the lowest class: “Never before have I become so involved in the story of my subjects and never before have I felt as unsettled or overwhelmed”.


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.