Cast of characters :

Zhang Gongli / Qiugang villager

Zhang Gongli, a farmer with only a middle-school education, is the central character in our film. He makes for an improbable eco-warrior. Now almost 60, he has spent most of his life working in the fields. He is fiercely nationalistic, with an abiding faith in China’s Communist Party. Yet when factories started poisoning his village, he pushed back. He taught himself the rudiments of Chinese law and filed a lawsuit against the polluters.  When he lost in the courts, he persevered. Over the course of almost five years, our cameras watch as this modest and at times hesitant farmer turns himself into a savvy leader. As a representative of the factories acknowledges towards the end of the film, Zhang is no longer “an ordinary villager”.

Wang Yongcui / Qiugang villager
She may be a gossip and something of a busybody, but Wang Yongcui was the only person brave enough to talk in front of the camera when our crew first arrived in Qiugang. The mother of three sons, Wang is also aunt to the village head, and she has a story or two to tell about him (as well as all her other neighbors). Over the course of the campaign, Wang makes herself into Zhang’s improbable ally and essential partner.
Yang Jun / Qiugang Village Committee Member
Yang Jun knows that the chemical factories stop discharging their wastewater whenever there’s an inspection by the local environmental protection agency, and this infuriates him. Each time he hears that a new inspection is about to take place, he races to the Baojia Waterway to collect samples of the polluted water so that he can compare results with the official report.
Wang Zongying / Qiugang villager
Octogenarian Wang Zongying makes a mark on her wall for every death in the village. She says that in the past two and a half years alone, over 50 villagers have died; and about a third of these villagers were under 50 years of age. In all her years, she has never seen such a high rate of mortality. “I’m 87 years old,” she tells our cameras, “and I never tell lies.”
Green Anhui - NGO
Green Anhui is a young and relatively small NGO based in Anhui Province. Its mission is to increase public interest and involvement in environmental protection. It was founded in 2003 by a group of journalists, environmental activists, and students. Investigating conditions along the Huai River, one of the NGO’s volunteers discovered unnatural colors flowing from a tributary. He traced the source of the pollution to Qiugang. Volunteer Ren Jingwen subsequently spent a lot of time in Qiugang helping residents understand their legal rights and gathering concrete evidence of what was happening to the village’s water.
 Copyright © 2010 , Thomas Lennon Films & Chang Ai Media Project .