Summer of Yueming 曰明的暑假

China’s economic development has successfully brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into the consumer society. While China’s urban population is hooked on automobiles and luxury goods consumption, its much larger rural areas have also begun to witness a shift in the balance between saving and spending. All the while, the growing material desires of this newly affluent population are placing a huge strain on China’s natural resources and environment.

Director Zhang Zhong documented the 2008 summer holiday of Yueming, a 15 year old school boy in Jiyang County, Shandong Province, who spent the entire summer dumpster-diving to earn money to buy his first cell phone. It is hard not to be touched by the simple pleasures this hard-earned cell phone/MP3 player/camera has brought Yueming. Yet Yueming seems to understand that accumulation of wealth is not enough to bring inner fulfillment. Summer of Yueming is a vivid sketch of the mentality of this new generation coming of age today in rural China.

As China has built up a scrap industry by reclaiming wastes such as old computers or used paper from the developed countries, the country’s domestic waste stream is also growing significantly. In return for meager wages in this rising “profession”, a person must work long hours in conditions that are quite damaging to the environment and people’s health in these industrial trash heaps. Yueming’s story is just one and there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of others who make the same living, mining the trash for pennies an hour while putting their own health and lives at risk.

A short documentary film produced by Zhang Zhong. Re-edidted by Sun Yunfan.

Credits: David Barreda, Laura Chang, Leah Thompson, Michael Zhao

Originally published on September 20, 2010

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