Born at the tail end of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, I am of the generation who came of age during China’s drastic modern transformation. As a university student, I demonstrated in the streets during the Tiananmen Square Protests in 1989. Our family immigrated to North America in the 1990s in search of a better life. Reality quickly set in when my younger sister developed a severe eating disorder after our move. Her experience with the “strange” disease provided me with first hand insight into the complexities of mental illness, the damage it engenders in the life of the individual and the family, and the severe consequences of being unable to understand it and unwilling to talk about it.
I was driven to tell the story of Shi Ming and his family. His illness reminded me of my sister’s struggle; his death recalled painful memories of her suicide attempts; and his clash with the legal system resembled her own criminal case when her illness became uncontrollable. Growing up in the same society at the same cultural moment as Shi Ming, understanding who he was is a way of understanding myself and my generation. The trajectory of the Deng family, as migrants moving from rural to urban environments, and then to new countries, represents the collective journey of millions of people who leave their homes in search of a better place. Their experience is a reflection of the dilemma we are all facing in a world undergoing profound social, demographic, and economic transformation.
I was driven to tell the story of Shi Ming and his family. Their experience is a reflection of the dilemma we are all facing…
The story involves layers of complexity ranging from immigration, to psychological struggle, to the complicated and maze-like legal system. All these elements are entangled against a trans-cultural and trans-continental backdrop charged with history and politics. The complexity provided an excellent opportunity for me to experiment with different cinematic languages, so as to create a film that is not only socially relevant, emotionally engaging, but also visually compelling.
Ultimately, The World is Bright is a modern tale of our humanity. The themes and questions the film explores — such as the stigma surrounding mental illness, the invisible mechanisms of control in our modern life, the dislocation and disconnection produced through global migration, and the perpetual search for meaning — are universal and relevant to all contemporary societies.
—- Ying Wang