Thursday, 4 August 2011

My reflections of a documentary called On a Tightrope

I must say that not many documentaries touched my heart as much as this one. It could be because of the way orphans tell their stories or the desperation I see in their eyes. Particularly to watch the kids who practise tightroping without a safety net to be able to make a decent living in the future is very heart breaking.

In the beginning of the documentary there are Chinese officials trying to understand the reason of the filming and asking the film makers not to translate or show the part when they interrogated them. Of course the film makers rebel and show us this part as well.

This documentary is about group of orphan kids who live in an orphanage where Uighur Turks settled  in China. Although I am Turkish, I didn't have an extensive information about Uighurs which was a shame really. At school in Turkey, we did not have the chance to explore the other Turks living in other Asian countries in detail.  I did a quick research about the area on the Internet and this is what I found.
Turks originated in Siberia and Mongolia and mobilised long before Uighurs. It is rumoured that even Vikings were Turks originally. There are lots of debates about that!

The name ‘Turk’ came to stand for unity and a common language: variants of Turkish are still spoken from the Balkans to Yakutia (present-day Siberia).

 Uighurs are leaders of a Turkic tribe which emerged in the eighth century from the scrum of nomads along China's northern border to create an empire rivalling the Tang dynasty of China.

Vast majority of Uighurs live outside Xinjiang in China is in Taouyan County in South-central Hunan province.
Their religion is Sunni Islam. The language is written in Arabic letters. 

In this documentary hearing Uighur Turkish was very interesting. It felt like I would understand what they were saying but despite many common words I had to rely on the English subtitles which was very frustrating. The orphans are trying really hard to succeed in a very hostile and strict rules and regulations of Chinese government. One teacher says; "I can't have two masters; Science and Religion. I have to teach these kids Science because I am a member of the Communist Party and I have responsibilities for my country. If they are in school, they can't practise their religion."

The kids are asked what they would like to become in the future. One girl says; "A Chinese language teacher because there is a massive need for Mandarin language teachers in all over the world". 

I particularly recommend for teachers to watch and show this documentary in a lesson and discuss about the different issues mentioned in the film.  

There are many disputes between Chinese government and Uighur Turks at present. You can read about them through the links below:

Uighur Mosque in Xinjiang, China
Doppa Cap

Old Kashqar City in China