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When Canadian director Gary Marcuse set out to make a film about China's environmental protection, he didn't expect to return with an optimistic story. But that's what he got.
After four years of production in China and Canada, his documentary Waking the Green Tiger: A Green Movement Rises in China on Wednesday won a Grantham Award of Special Merit, which includes $5,000 in cash.
Established in 2005, the award is funded by Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham through theirBoston-based Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, which supports communication and collaboration in environmental protection.
Along with Betsy Carson and Chinese videographer Shi Lihong, Marcuse of Face to Face Media documented a citizen-led campaign in southern China's Yunnan province to stop a dam project along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River.
Shi, a well-knownenvironmental activist and filmmaker in China, has followed the citizen-led green movement for years in Yunnan.
"In this lushly filmed documentary, Face to Face Media beautifully captured the spirit of this grass-roots movement in China with stunning images, superb writing and excellent use of strong, compelling personal stories," Grantham Prize juror Susanne Reber said.
Seen through the eyes of local farmers, activists and journalists, the documentary chronicles a successful campaign against a massive project to dam the Tiger Leap Gorge and thereby flood an ancient valley, forcing 100,000 people off their land.
Ultimately the government decided it was better not to build the dam.
It also gained rare interviews with some government insiders about the environment protection development in China.
Waking the Green Tiger"offers the world a rare glimpse at a growing movement with the potential to shape China's future," said Sunshine Menezes, executive director of Rhode Island's Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting, which administers the award. "The film is a great example of what we hope to do with the Grantham Prize: draw attention to environmental stories that might not otherwise reach broad audiences."
Green Tigeris the third in a series of films Face to Face Media has produced about the origins of environmental movements in North America, Russia and China.Marcuse and Carson received the award in Washington on Wednesday, while Shi is still in Dali, Yunan province.
Seeing media reports about serious environmental problems in China, most people in the West would feel frustrated and pessimistic about the situation, the Canadian director said. But he hopes that through his film, more and more people will see the changes happening in China.
"We were really encouraged to see how people now can express themselves and try to participate in the national dialogue," Marcuse told China Daily.
"In the past, all we heard about China is the negative stories of pollution, but we didn't know ordinary people now feel much more positive about the environment and they think they have opportunities to express themselves."
The film has been televised bythe Canadian Broadcasting Corp and channels in Denmark, Sweden and Slovenia. Organizers have asked that the film be entered in the Shanghai International Film Festival this month.
Shi Lihong is an environmental activist and filmmaker in China. She is one of China's earliest environmental journalists and has been actively involved in China's grassroots environmental movement. She was nominated as one of the 1000 Women for Nobel Pease Award in 2006. In 2002 she was elected as Global Leaders for Tomorrow by World Economic Forum.
Shi and her husband Xi Zhinong -- a renowned conservationist photographer - has spent six years to make China's first international-award-winning natural history film Mystery of Yunnan Snub-nosed Monkey, which won the TVE Award at the Wildscreen Film Festival in 2002.
In 2004 Shi made Voice of An Angry River, a documentary film about the dam-affected people in Mekong and Salween River.