NEWS: DOOMAN RIVER vs. the Dooman River

The Global Lens 2011 standout is playing to audiences everywhere, but what does the film really say about the Dooman River?

A few months ago, a moviegoer sent us an email after watching Zhang Lu’s film, DOOMAN RIVER (featured in Global Lens 2011), and said it’s good we’re “raising awareness about what’s happening around the River”…

And, it was an interesting comment, because what’s happening in the film is a story of two young friends caught in a refugee crisis.  But who could really say people were now more aware of what’s ‘happening around the River,’ because they’d seen a film by the same name (or rather, even if audiences were more aware of this river/border between China, North Korea and Russia, what exactly did they know about it?)

In the 90s, the Dooman was a common border-crossing for North Koreans fleeing famine, and the film paints a bleak but beautiful portrait of that [ongoing] refugee crisis—and an equally miserable but mesmerizing visage of the river itself, polluted with physical refuse and the overwhelming weight of transnational border politics.  This is what we know, and say in our description of the film.

But is that all there really is to the Dooman River?  And the answer is “no,” which is exactly the point the governments of China, Russia and North Korea (DPRK) are trying to make by their recent announcement:

(Xinhua – May 2011) China has just launched a transnational tour on Tuesday that will allow travelers to visit Russia and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on a single trip.

A group of 21 tourists left Changchun, capital of northeast China’s Jilin Province, on Tuesday for the border city of Hunchun. The travellers will then leave Hunchun to visit Slavyanka, Vladivostok and Khasan.

The tour group will then travel directly from Russia to the Dooman River and the DPRK side of the Rason free trade zone before arriving back in Hunchun on May 4.

The tour, a pilot program that has been approved by the National Tourism Administration, was jointly inaugurated by travel agencies from all three countries.  [read full article]

Historically, the Dooman River has been a prime destination spot for tourists. And while it has seen its share of hardship, it is also the site of one of the more ambitious proposed free-trade zones and development projects in Asia: the Greater Tumen Initiative. And that’s what these governments are hoping to capitalize on, with this new tour.

So, like many things, DOOMAN RIVER is only one side of, well, the Dooman River, and while we generally tout Global Lens as being the ‘window to a world,’ we’re also aware of how such things can be limiting—if taken as representative of the entire story.  Discovering the full story is the trick, and if you have the time and inclination, it seems at least three countries want to you to take on that challenge…

DOOMAN RIVER can be seen in various locations, venues and festivals throughout the U.S. and Canada as part of the Global Lens 2011 film series. The Dooman River can be seen in China and in any of the other countries through which it runs. Check our film calendar for screening dates and times, and check a map for local topography.

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