These films were shot in Tai A Chau, the largest of the Soko Islands in the South China Sea, three hours by boat from Hong Kong. The area was inhabited by Cantonese people. Its economy was based on fishing and farming, mostly pineapples, mixed vegetables, and pigs. See previews of each film below; the full versions are distributed by DER, and are available for purchase here, or may be requested in your local institution’s media center. The essays accompanying each film can be downloaded here.
Island in the China Sea
Tai A Chau is home for both farmers and fishermen who use the island as a permanent harbor for their small floating homes. The daily routines of Mr. Wong, a fisherman, and Mr. Ng, a farmer, are representative of their respective problems of survival, mutual dependence, and hopes for the future. Island in the China Sea is the introductory film in the China Coast series of Faces of Change. It provides a broad overview of the rural societies of both the island farmer and the boat people who harbor here. It traces the lifestyle of agricultural and fishing families, juxtaposing their daily activities and their tacit interaction. The symbiosis is in delicate balance, however, since ideas of class and caste set the two groups apart. Island farmers have traditionally regarded boat people as inferior. (Teaching Guide)
Hoy Fok and the Island School
This film is about the life of Hoy Fok, a fourteen-year-old boy, who lives with his family on a fishing junk near a small island in the Hong Kong Territory. Hoy Fok helps his family in fishing and attends the island school. Education on this small island primarily involves teaching children basic things like simple arithmetic that would help them in selling fish. The film also features interviews with Hoy Fok’s teacher, parents, and the village headman, all of whom provide their differing viewpoints on his education and his future. His teacher feels that although he joined school too late, he has a natural curiosity and should pursue higher education; however, his parents think that secondary schooling is a waste of money, something they cannot afford. (Teaching Guide)
China Coast Fishing
The film concerns the traditional “floating population” who fish Chinese coastal waters from family-sized junks based in Hong Kong in competition with salaried fisherman using large, mechanized boats. The combined effect of education and an increased integration with shore life is putting strains on the old ways. This is a “process film” in that it portrays the economic activities of three fishing families, each pursuing a different kind of fishing. Like the whole Faces Of Change series, it focuses on rural people using small-scale technology. Other fishing methods exist in the South China Sea—the large “long-liners” and deep-sea trawlers are big business operations with hired crews and constantly changing technology. (Teaching Guide)
Three Island Women
Three women, varying in ages and therefore perspective, agree that life on a small Chinese island in Hong Kong waters is better for them now than in the past. They are treated as equal to the men in the rigors of manual labor and now participate fully in the island’s decision-making and economic life. Link to full film and Teaching Guide)
The Island Fishpond
Tai A Chau symbolically rids itself of the last vestiges of the Old China. The town is represented by the Landlord Chan when it sells land to buy a freshwater pond. The community effort to improve the island’s economic well-being brings together government representatives and the land people. One couple, who are the lone entrepreneurs, keep themselves removed from the situation. (Teaching Guide)
The 1973 film production in the South China Sea near Hong Kong included a still photography project in both black and white and color. The original negatives are held at the Smithsonian. Click below to access a selection of these photographs, captions to come.
- Island in the China Sea (32 minutes). Filmmakers George Chang, Richard Chen, and Norman Miller. Producer Norman Miller. Documentary Educational Resources, Watertown, MA, 1974.
- Hoy Fok and the Island School (32 minutes). Filmmakers George Chang, Richard Chen, and Norman Miller. Producer Norman Miller. Documentary Educational Resources, Watertown, MA, 1974.
- China Coast Fishing (19 minutes). Filmmakers George Chang, Richard Chen, and Norman Miller. Producer Norman Miller. Documentary Educational Resources, Watertown, MA, 1974.
- Three Island Women (17 minutes). Filmmakers George Chang, Richard Chen, and Norman Miller. Producer Norman Miller. Documentary Educational Resources, Watertown, MA, 1974.
- The Island Fishpond (13 minutes). Filmmakers George Chang, Richard Chen, and Norman Miller. Producer Norman Miller. Documentary Educational Resources, Watertown, MA, 1974.