Two years after the documentary The Firsts in Life was broadcast, Second Life, made by the same crew aired on May 19, 2022, and has created a huge buzz. Jointly produced by China Central Television, Shanghai Media Group, and Bilibili (a Chinese online entertainment platform), Second Life has scored 9.3/10 on the user-review platform Douban.
What does "second life" mean? According to producer Zhang Hao, "second life" is not a "repeat" but a "restart". When hitting a rough patch, do we have the courage to restart our lives? The 10 directors of Second Life spent two years filming eight episodes to tell us about the choices of Chinese people. The documentary contains eight themes: "Yuan" (Reunion Restaurant) and "Que" (Running for a Future) are about love and family; "Na" (Storm Survivor) and "Ju" (Reconstructing Faces, Rebuilding Lives) discuss ways to face physical disabilities and appearance anxiety; "Shi" (The Last Resort) and "Fei" (No Looking Back) focus on the field of justice; "Po" (Moving on) and "Li" (Turnaround) tell the story of women changing their fate by themselves.
While the four groups of themes are at opposite ends, each one embodies strong oriental philosophical thoughts and shows the bravery and tenacity of Chinese people from different dimensions.
It is hard for Jiang Weizhuo to bridge the 18-year gap of family affection and make a choice between biological and adoptive parents, but life after the reunion must be a new start, full of warmth and brightness. In the past 26 years, Bai Jian has adopted more than 120 children. Thanks to his care and company, these children, who are desperate for love, have learned how to express their feelings and are determined to change their fate by running.
He Huajie is paraplegic and lost sensation from the chest down because of a car accident. He shows us his unswerving spirit when he moves himself up to the wheelchair for the first time in a hailstorm on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Since childhood, Feng Ting has suffered from low self-esteem due to facial asymmetry. However, in order to chin up and walk in front of people confidently, in 2021, the 16-year-old girl had her hair shaved off and got plastic surgery at the Tongji Hospital.
Liu Zhanjiang and Miao Qinghai have appealed for many years, hoping to seek justice for their deceased families. Having tried their best, ultimately, they make peace with themselves and embrace their new lives. After 11 years in prison, Mao Hui struggled to integrate into society, regain self-worth, and reconcile with his girlfriend. After walking across the bridge at the Gage 2, he enjoys life’s beauty again.
The documentary also depicts images of great women. Some of them are willing to devote themselves to their children, some work hard and live independently, and some summon the courage to restart after divorce. For example, Huang Meifang and Li Ting are just ordinary women from the countryside, but they strive to fight against the difficulties, showing the audience the strong willpower of women. They make it possible for men to respect and value women, and inspire more women to be brave in the face of hardship and live for themselves.
Notably, the documentary tries to deliver different views from different perspectives. For example, in "Yuan" (Reunion Restaurant), the story is told from the perspectives of the mother, the child, and the police officer; the attitudes of life of other paralyzed people are shown in "Na" (Storm Survivor); two doctors' views on plastic surgery collide in "Ju" (Reconstructing Faces, Rebuilding Lives); the case is narrated from the viewpoints of the defendant and the petitioner in "Shi" (The Last Resort). "We hope that the audience will pay attention to people and events that used to be ignored, misunderstood, or one-sidedly defined," said chief coordinator Li Xiaowei. If we do not know the whole picture, we should not comment on it. In the Internet era, we are expected not to listen to one-sided stories, but think carefully before voicing our opinions, Li said.
In addition, it is clear from the documentary that Chinese people cannot have a second life without the help and support of China. Through joint efforts with other departments and a "reunion campaign", the Ministry of Public Security has been committed to cracking down on the abduction and trafficking of women and children and making every effort to solve all the ongoing and outstanding cases, so as to reunite more families. The Tiedong district government provided public rental housing for children in the Dream Home and helped children without an Anshan residence permit to continue their nine-year compulsory education. China's procuratorial administrations handle complaints and appeals and hold public hearings to uncover the truth of the case for petitioners. The Shenzhen Federation of Trade Unions has provided financial assistance and free skills training for workers.
"There is only one heroism in the world: to see the world as it is and to love it." This, in my opinion, is the message that Second Life intends to convey. Representing ordinary Chinese people, characters in the documentary have survived the storm and have been reborn, from which every viewer can gain courage and hope to face life.
Chen Junjie is a student at Shandong University. The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.
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