Ever wonder what it would be like to spend each day watching movies? Guo Jianhua knows what it is like; she has been projecting motion pictures in Yuyuan, a village in Kaifeng, a city in Central China's Henan Province, for 44 years. For the uninitiated, her work no doubt seems exciting, and it might seem like projecting moving pictures on a screen is an easy job. Nothing could be further from the truth; the job, in fact, requires both tremendous patience and excellent skills in operating and repairing the movie projector. If you learn more about Guo's experiences, you will surely be impressed by her deep commitment to her profession.
Guo began her career in 1974; initially, she and her colleagues traveled from village to village to show movies to rural residents. They transported the movie projector and rolls of films in a wooden handcart. While she worked as a projectionist in Xiangfu, from 1974-1993, Guo showed more than 13,000 movies to the district's residents. Since she became manager of Kaifeng Film Company, in 1996, she has arranged for company employees to show more than 14,000 movies to residents.
"When my husband, who was a military surgeon, came home to visit me in 1978, he persuaded me to go to Guangzhou (capital of South China's Guangdong Province, where his troops were stationed) to give birth to our baby," Guo recalls. "On the night when we were about to start our journey, the secretary of our village's Party (Communist Party of China) branch rushed to my home, and he asked me to continue showing movies to the rural residents. It happened that something went wrong with the movie projector that night, and thousands of villagers were waiting to watch the film … After I repaired the machine, I returned home to take a nap. When I awoke, my husband had left home for Guangzhou," Guo says.
During the summer of 1978, a movie, with the theme of Chinese revolutionaries, was a hit throughout the country. Guo and her colleagues showed the movie six times a day to the rural residents. As overwork adversely affected Guo's health, she gave birth to a premature baby girl. "My family cried bitterly when they saw the motionless infant. My husband suggested that we should name our baby Hongmei (Red Plum), after the name of the song in the movie, so our little girl would be as strong as the flower. Fortunately, our baby got better soon," Guo recalls.
"I'm grateful to my husband, who has supported me throughout the years," says Guo. "To support me in my work, he became a rural doctor after he left the army and returned home. Every evening, when farmers return home from work and have supper with their families, my colleagues and I are making preparations to show movies. My heart warms when I see my husband waiting for me, as I return home at midnight. Holding our baby in his arms, he heats foods for me."
Guo will never forget how thrilled she was when the movie, Jiao Yulu, was shown in 1990. The movie depicts the life of Jiao Yulu, an honest Secretary of Lankao (a county in Henan Province)'s Party Committee. Jiao treated the residents like they were his relatives, and he was always ready to help them. "The lofty man will live in our hearts forever," says Guo.
While movies have enriched farmers' lives and broadened their vision, the numerous outstanding characters on the silver screen have inspired Guo to man her post during the past 44 years, despite all of the hardships and difficulties.
When Guo was appointed manager of Kaifeng Film Company, China's rural film market was sluggish. On her first day as manager, Guo sang songs to encourage employees to make a concerted effort to improve management of the company. The workers raised funds, which were used to develop the company, and the leaders of Xiangfu's cultural affairs bureau promised the bureau would provide a loan to the company, to help promote its development.
Many media outlets reported on Guo's experiences of developing the company during the following few years, and eventually she righted the company. In 2007, Kaifeng established Xinhua Rural Digital Film Co., Ltd. Due largely to Guo and her colleagues' persevering efforts, Xinhua's business has boomed during the past decade.
The film, Children of the Silver Screen, which was adapted based on Guo's experiences, was named the best musical film (from China) during the 11th Universe Multicultural Film Festival, which was held in Los Angeles in April 2014.
"Given China's rapid economic development during the past two decades, Chinese people's living standards have substantially improved. Many young and middle-aged rural residents, who had worked elsewhere, returned home to watch a movie with their parents, to satisfy their elder relatives' spiritual needs. That is a good way to show their filial respect to their parents," says Guo.
She was a deputy to the 11th, 12th and 13th NPCs (National People's Congresses). During the past decade, Guo has discussed with experts in the cultural sector how to improve the nation's policies to promote the development of China's cultural and film industries.
During the Fourth Session of the 12th NPC, which was held in March 2016, Guo, the only deputy to the congress who was a grass-roots projectionist, proposed, with 15 other NPC deputies, that China should promulgate the Law of the People's Republic of China on Promotion of Film Industry. Guo in recent years has attended seven conferences, during which experts in the cultural sector have offered suggestions on how the Chinese Government could improve the draft law on promotion of film industry. Guo attended the 24th Session of the 12th NPC Standing Committee, which was held on November 7, 2016, during which the Law of the People's Republic of China on Promotion of Film Industry was adopted.
Guo was pleased to note the Chinese Government had provided more financial support to cinemas, at the grass-roots level across the country, including those in rural areas, after the law took effect on March 1, 2017.
Guo during the past few years has arranged for company employees to show more than 10,000 movies to the residents in the communities in Xingfu District, and to workers in local plants, schools and government organizations, to help the people improve their ability to protect their rights and interests. The movies were well received by the people.
"I'm lucky that I live in a good age, when the Chinese Government is putting much effort into strengthening work related to satisfying the spiritual needs of residents, at the grass-roots level across the country. I'll make greater efforts to promote the development of Xingfu's rural film industry," says Guo.
She took peanuts, Kaifeng's top agricultural product, each time she attended the annual session of the NPC. When reporters, from different media outlets, took pictures of her, she said, "Why don't you take pictures of my peanuts? They look prettier than me."
Guo is emotionally attached to peanuts. Why? Many villagers offered the delicious snack to her while she showed films.
Due in part to Guo's efforts to promote Kaifeng's peanuts, China's Ministry of Agriculture in January 2018 designated peanuts as an agricultural product with geographical indicators (GI).
In 2013, Guo proposed to the NPC Standing Committee that China should produce a popular science film to help farmers improve their skills in cultivating peanuts.
"We'll arrange for Kaifeng's rural residents to see popular science films, so they can improve their farming and breeding skills. We hope more farmers will escape poverty by applying what they learn, through the films, in production," says Guo. "As Chinese President Xi Jinping has said, 'Happiness comes out of arduous work,' I believe through our efforts, to help impoverished residents escape poverty, the residents will live better lives, both materially and spiritually."
Guo adds that as long as rural residents enjoy watching stories on the silver screen, she hopes to show movies to them.
(Source: Women of China English Monthly May 2018 issue)