Janice Hua Xu – Abstract

Telling the Stories of Left-behind Children in China: From Diary Collection to Digital Filmmaking

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The issue of “left-behind children” in China has been widely recognized as a significant social problem, as more than 61 million children are living in villages away from their parents, who have migrated to large cities to seek employment opportunities. There is a very limited number of media products depicting left-behind children in rural China as central characters with individual personalities. This paper analyzes how stories and voices of this underprivileged group are presented in recent years to the public in different non-fictional media forms, particularly documentary films. Through content analysis of selected film samples, the paper examines how narratives are weaved about the lives and emotions of these children, and how the stories make sense of their family experiences. The paper discusses the power of digital narratives and visual-based expressions in representing this special group in remote areas of the country. It also examines how the products of representation are mediated by different types of storytellers, who are often motivated by a sense of social engagement to raise awareness about the plight of these children to appeal for support, but address the issue from their specific perspectives.