“A delicately assembled and deeply moving portrait of a China rarely captured on film.”
-Richard Kuipers, Australian Film Critic and Film Festival Programmer
“RESTORING THE LIGHT is a beautifully made documentary that promises to spur real change for its subjects. With a perceptive eye, filmmaker Carol Liu tells a story of resilience and hope as she illuminates the humanity of rural families in China struggling with poor healthcare. ”
-Christine Kwon, Juror, Hawaii International Film Festival Documentary Competition
“A groundbreaking documentary exposing the overwhelming struggles of modern China not covered by the media. Every American must see this film!”
-Malcolm R. Ing, MD, Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology & Chair of the Division of Ophthalmology, John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii
Restoring the Light is a feature documentary that travels deep into the heart of Ningxia, one of China’s poorest regions, to uncover the hopes and adversities of the rural population that has been left behind in the wake of China’s dizzying economic boom.
China’s new mantra, “You go through school, then you get a good job and you leave the rural areas” has created an unending flow of migrant workers streaming to prospering cities. But what happens to the faceless millions who stay behind and who must struggle for basic survival and limited access to healthcare and education?
Unlike those who have migrated, ophthalmologist Zhang Xubin has chosen to return to his roots. Dr. Zhang grew up in a crude cave dwelling in Ningxia as a child. In spite of his humble beginnings, he attained a successful medical career, then decided to forego the comfortable city life in order to start his own medical practice in Ningxia, operating a non-profit mobile eye clinic for underprivileged rural patients. However, financial difficulties cause mounting pressure for him and his family as they face eviction. Restoring the Light explores the personal and professional sacrifices of this unique doctor-entrepreneur in China and journeys into the lives of two benefiting disabled families in rural Ningxia: Wang Rong Rong, a young woman from an illiterate farming family, has lived with a debilitating bone infection for almost 20 years. She aspires to become an artist and, against innumerable odds, has excelled in her studies in order to sit for the college entrance exam. Her grandmother, Yuan, has lived in a cave dwelling for over sixty years and still toils in the field even though she has lost her vision to cataracts. Li Juncheng, a bright ten-year-old boy, dreams of driving a truck one day. However, blinded by an improperly treated illness in infancy, Li spends each day alone, penned in his own yard, playing with sand and a water bottle. The lack of special education at his local school spells a grim future for him. Dr. Zhang’s mobile clinic brings Wang and Li a measure of peace, but also forces reality into sharper focus. His mission becomes our special entry into this world, where hard choices are made, and where hopes are dashed and resurrected.
As China rushes to become the next superpower, Restoring the Light reveals the human challenges behind the façade of a nation’s rise. In Chinese, to “restore sight” means to “restore light.” As the lives of these rural individuals come into focus, the film probes the question: How does one retain resilience, fortitude and the spirit of hope in the face of tremendous forces of social and economic change? The film aims to spark reflection upon the potential of individual will and compassion, values which have implications for people the world over.