China Dialect

Project Description:
Until the early years of the 21st century, there were still many people in China who only spoke dialects, which made it difficult to communicate between people in different regions. Especially in the south. But in recent years, we found that many of the younger generations do not speak dialects but only Mandarin. Therefore, according to this experience, our group decided to make a documentary about the influences of dialects on our society and daily life. And through this film, we want the audience to think about why some strong dialects are so popular while some are dying out or being discarded by the younger generation.
The film explores the debate between Mandarin and dialects from two dimensions: based on the academic aspect, it will have interviews of linguists and dialect promoters to explain the social and economic impact of dialects to the public, and to show to the audience the significance and function of dialects and Mandarin respectively. At the same time, the documentary will record the current situation of folk culture traditions which are rely on the dialects.
Our goal is to get people, who know nothing about dialects, a little interested in dialects and folk cultures that use dialects as tool. As soon as the audience Google "dialect," it means we have done it.

  • Cheryl Zhu
  • Nian Li
    Writer & Editor
  • Jackson Huang
  • Kai Lu
  • Project Title (Original Language):
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    30 minutes
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Cheryl Zhu

Cheryl Zhu was an undergraduate student of telecommunications at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. In her spare time, Cheryl became fascinated with photography and video, and she often took pictures and sent videos to her families in China.
Thinking of how often Cheryl watched the Hong Kong films on television when she’s a child, and how film students filming their works on campus, she became interested in film production. Therefore, Cheryl joined the film and television animation department of Xi'an Academy of Fine Arts to audit their film and television photography production course and participated in the shooting of the graduation short film The Bike (2017). Cheryl was captivated by the process of “turning a small idea she had in mind into a written story and then developing it into an audio-visual moving image” through the experience working with film students. So she switched to a media major and began to study professionally and systematically.
During her undergraduate study, Cheryl studied film, television, and animation production and mastered many of the devices and software applications. She has worked with her classmates on several short films and animations. One of their short films, Soldiers Sorties (2019), won an Audience Award on UNSW 2019 Video Project Screenings, and it won the Audience Choice on Kino Sydney #142.
Now, Cheryl continues her study at the University of Sydney and is preparing her graduation project, a documentary called The Chinese Dialects. Comparing to her undergraduate projects, her postgraduate films were more about the real world - the pandemic, the war, the pressures of youth. Therefore, for the graduation project, she and her team hope to explore the significance of dialects to Chinese society in the form of a documentary.

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Director Statement

Have you ever thought about what will happen if there is no dialect in China anymore?
The answer for me was no. Before we start the China Dialect, we only noticed that there are more and more young generations who do not speak any dialect. Unlike my generation, even though we spoke Mandarin in school when we’re little, there were still many people who spoke dialects outside of school. But nowadays, only a few people still use dialect. Based on this feeling, we decided to make a documentary about Chinese dialects.
The China Dialect is a very broad proposition. It contains not only 129 dialects, but also the history, cultures and customs behind each dialect. We want to make the China Dialect as a documentary series, so that we can record more dialects more carefully.
The China Dialect explores the situation of dialects in different cities after the widely spread of Mandarin and the increasing migrant population of each city. In addition, it also explores meanings of dialects and Mandarin for people and the culture, the influence of dialect decline on culture.
In the first episode, the theme is transmission and heritage. We explore the history of the Fuzhou dialect which is the local dialect for the capital city of Fujian Province. Fujian, also known as “Min”. As the province with the most dialect categories, Min dialects play an important role in Chinese dialects. And the Fuzhou dialect is of great significance to the study of ancient Chinese and the changes of the Fuzhou population. The local folk art inherited together with Fuzhou dialect is also an important part of Fuzhou culture, as well as Chinese culture.
In the next few episodes, we hope to explore the dialects in different regions of China, their histories, and their interesting stories with local cultures and people.