Michka Saäl

China Me

2013, documentary, 88 minutes, Mandarin with English subtitles

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At its heart, the excavation of language: the vibrating strings of a guqin, the relentless tapping of a pickaxe as it chips away at the last remnant of traditional values, the ring of truths shared by those left on the sidelines of progress. And while Huo Datong analyzes the characters in his country’s 6,000-year-old language for keys to the unconscious of the Chinese, the poems of Zhai Yong Ming take the night watch.


full-length version with English subtitles, courtesy of 24 Images


Written and directed by Michka Saäl


Image: Lu Sheng

Sound recording: Mo Xuesong

Sound design: Chen Leijo

Editor: Mary Stephen

Poems: Zhai Yong Ming


Field producer, interpreter, researcher: Lihong Kong

Production: 24 Images (France)




China Me, Spoon and Prisoners of Beckett form a kind of trilogy on the power of art to affect our quality of life and our humanity.”

Guillaume Roussel-Garneau, Liberté, June 2015

“Far beyond the cliché of a China moving head with confidence bolstered by economic growth, the director delivers a portrait of a society full of doubt: Chinese who realize, slowly but surely, that efforts to enhance their material wealth have repercussions on themselves and their loved ones… To treat this sensitive topic, the director takes a step back by placing poetry in the centre of the film.”

Guilhem Brouillet, Rue 89, March 15, 2015

click lINK heRE (french only)




Montreal International Documentary Festival



DOC Cévennes, Lasalle, France

China Women’s Film Festival, Beijing

Festival International de Films des Femmes de Créteil, France

Montreal International Documentary Festival



Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM)

White Night , the bar of Zhai Yong Ming.

White Night, the bar of Zhai Yong Ming.

The poetry of China Me 

 “Michka Saäl explains the choice of Mary Stephen as editor: ‘Because the films she has directed are poetic, and she understands what I want to do.’

“The film transports the viewer into a tangible reality, experienced by a billion Chinese, through the poems of Zhai Yong Ming, poems that ‘she writes after reading the morning papers’, says Michka Saäl.

“This poet is well known in China for poems inspired by headlines that are often violent and that therefore reflect on the soul of Chinese society. The director was determined to meet her, literally holding a siege at her bar in Chengdu. Despite the language barriers, the two women discovered a shared sensibility.

 “From this meeting was born the idea of having Zhai Yong Ming read some of her poems in the hope that this would weave a thread through the film. And indeed she accomplishes this gracefully.

“’I think that film and poetry, and art in general, are vital for people, even those who have nothing or in the most tragic of moments,’” says Michka Saäl. ‘Who reads poets? Sales of poetry books are almost nil! And yet poetry is so important. The poems of Zhai Young Ming are almost manifestos.’”

Interview with Guilhem Brouillet, rue 89