Benoit Lelievre: director
Huaqing Jin: co-director
Ripples is a documentary short that focuses on how trade restrictions on cotton from Xinjiang since 2020 has affected four women who have lived in Yiwu, China for the past several years. They were born in Xinjiang and moved to Yiwu and with members of their families run their own business. In their stories they express a longing for Xinjiang and its natural resources, an autonomous region in China where 80% of the country’s cotton is grown. Scenes showing the vast expanse of cotton fields and trucks loaded with harvest illustrate the resplendent bounty of the area.
Amani is a garment wholesaler who is sending goods to her customers in Xinjiang from Yiwu. She knows they have fallen on hard times and asks them to pay later when they can. In a phone conversation with her father back in Xinjiang, he tells her he cannot sell his cotton because no one is buying. Amani explains to a group of women she meets at a Yiwu restaurant that Muslim gender equality exists, but she is saddened that cotton buyers such as the Swedish fashion and clothing conglomerate H&M restricts imports from her region. Members of the “Better Cotton Initiative” for sustainable sources, the H&M embargo is based on reports that the Chinese government forces the Muslim Uyghur minority to pick cotton.
Mihaly originally from Urumqi started a restaurant in Yiwu after her husband died and raised three children that is typical for women in Xinjiang. Her colorful restaurant features authentic dishes from her region, and she goes to market to get the best produce and prices. She also has established a group of women to expand their business potential through the Chinese social media site “WeChat Business”.
Guli Bexremu is a health coach that does seminars on the web. Originally from Aksu whose main product is cotton, Guli believes that since machines do cotton farming in Xinjiang there is no point in forced cotton production where it is collected at large mills. Like Amani she informs people about the customs of her region and how she grew up learning Mandarin and the Uyghur language.
Ayiguli is from Kashgar and her husband Usmanuddin from Afghanistan started a shipping company in Yiwu. They are worried about the cotton restrictions. Ayiguli is expecting their third child. Her family life with her husband and two children is playful and peaceful and includes dances and music by women in beautiful native costumes playing drums.
RIPPLES provides an inside view on the Xinjiang cotton market seen through the eyes of native businesswomen. They generously share the stories of their families and about the people in their region. The film is accompanied by spectacular cinematography from Xinjiang by Chinese filmmaker and cinema teacher Huaqing Jin. Scenes from Yiwu are interwoven with shots of Lake Kanas and the skyscrapers of Aksu, a big city of the area. Beyond Kashgar where the ancient customs of the Uyghur native to Xinjiang are preserved stand the majestic Pamir snow-capped mountains. The women of this documentary demonstrate the importance of trade and hope for the future of the cotton market.
Moira Jean Sullivan
Member of FIPRESCI