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Young & Restless in China (DVD Review)

20 Jul, 2008 By: Holly J. Wagner

Young & Restless in China

Street 7/29/08

$29.99 DVD
Not rated.

Two decades after PBS brought us The Heart of the Dragon, Ambrica Productions and Zeitgeist Video bring us Young & Restless in China. What a difference a couple of decades make.

This is life in China through the eyes of nine young adults. Filmmaker Sue Williams met with each of them yearly in 2004 through 2007 to follow the paths of their lives. The stories are told with English and Mandarin soundtracks.

Some are urban professionals returning after a decade or more in the West; they come back for opportunity but find it challenging to retain their ethics while dealing with ingrained corruption.

Some who never left speak of the influence of the student movement that led to the showdowns in Tiananmen Square in 1989: One decided against politics because of the danger; another became a public interest lawyer. Others are migrant workers who leave their villages for manufacturing jobs in the cities.

Their lives and problems are strikingly similar to those Americans face, with a few extremely traditional exceptions. They struggle with the desire to get ahead, the lack of health insurance, the challenges of finding love and keeping it alive and of raising families. But some also face problems most Americans will never know: One woman tracks down a mother kidnapped by human traffickers 18 years earlier; another fears shaming and angering her family by backing out of a loveless arranged betrothal.

All of this takes place against a backdrop of an industrial boom that is changing the landscape of China literally and psychologically. Capitalism has put greater focus on gaining wealth, creating challenges of balancing work, goals and extended families.

Young & Restless in China is an eye-opening journey for its similarities and contrasts to American life. It's plain to see that industrial development in China is an unstoppable juggernaut; some will ride it and some will be crushed under its wheels. This much is clear: Americans had better get used to ambitious competitors, wiling to sacrifice to get ahead.

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