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An odyssey to find the truth of grains

By Xu Fan | China Daily | Updated: 2023-01-03 07:42
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Embarking on a new mouthwatering journey, the latest season of the popular documentary series , Once Upon a Bite, features a variety of staple foods, such as rabbit crystal dumpling. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"Grains have shaped the culinary history of human beings," Chen Lei, the chief director of the fourth season, explains.

"Grains play a foundational role in modern life. Despite the fact that all of us are quite familiar with grains, there are still a lot of stories behind their evolution that we have yet to know."

The idea of making a whole season about grains was first shaped in 2018, when the team was filming a story about cereals for the first season.

Despite the past few years of the pandemic, Chen Lei and producer Deng Jie led their team in comprehensive preparations for the filming of this new season. Such efforts ranged from cooperating with a photographic team that excels in filming plants to recruiting professionals who majored in botany.

Interestingly, they even rented a field on Shanghai's Chongming Island to use as a grain "laboratory "to observe how they grow and explore time-lapse cinematography. They also figured out a new method, combining computer-generated footage with actual footage, to display how a seed shoots up.

In the first episode, centering on wheat, which director Chen Lei depicts as a base food for Chinese people, the documentary travels to multiple cities in China, like Hangzhou's Fuyang district in Zhejiang province and Chifeng in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, as well as the Middle East, the United Kingdom and Turkiye, to discover how the routine lives of locals are tightly bonded to wheat.

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