AmericaSpeaks TheVoiceOfJoyce A Chinese film that openly discusses health issues, in China, is a success. The director Wang, discusses the prevalence of Hepatitis B in Chinese society and the stigma associated with carrying it. 120 million Chinese are living with Hep B in China today. The film also discusses living with HIV. The director speculates, his investigative reporting survived with a sincere discussion of people’s health. The film is a breakthrough for investigative journalism in contemporary Chinese society.

The story is loosely based on the real-life Han Fudong, a journalist who went on to become chief reporter of the Southern Metropolis Daily, a newspaper that was once known for its hard-hitting investigations. Han’s work eventually led to companies being banned from screening employees for the virus or to fire carriers. At that time there were more than 120 million people living with the disease in China.

The Best is Yet to Come, which has been compared to All the President’s Men and Spotlight, toured the international film circuit in 2020. But last month it was released in China, taking in 52.3m yuan (£6.1m) in its first week at the box office. That makes it a modest success in commercial terms – but more striking is the fact that a film about the power of investigative journalism could be released in China at all.

The film is set in the heady days of 2003. China had declared victory over Sars, and the country, especially Beijing, was thrumming with ambition as people rode the wave of reform and opening up that had turbocharged the economy. It was also the year in which Wang Jing, the film’s director, moved to the capital to study at the Beijing Film Academy, the country’s top film school. It was, Wang tells the Observer, the “spring” of China’s civil society.

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