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Campus & Community - Arts & Entertainment

Jocelyn Ford Brings 'Nowhere To Call Home: A Tibetan in Beijing' to Drexel

February 1, 2016

Zanta and Jocelyn. Photo by Alice Carfrae
Jocelyn Ford (left) and Zanta on a bridge in Beijing. Photo by Alice Carfrae.

Jocelyn Ford will present her award-winning documentary “Nowhere to Call Home: A Tibetan in Beijing” at a special screening on Wednesday, Feb. 3 in Disque Hall.

The film follows Tibetan single mother Zanta, who lives in Beijing as a street vendor to avoid the reach of her tyrannical father-in-law and give her young son an education. Destitute and beaten down by constant ethnic discrimination, Zanta turns to Ford for assistance in helping to pay for her son’s school fees. As Zanta and Ford travel from the streets of Beijing to Zanta’s home village in Tibet, their relationship turns from journalist and subject to something greater.

“Zanta believed the reason I sat down to talk with her was because we were relatives in a last life,” Ford said. “No other foreigner had ever stopped to chat. I became involved in her life because I thought her son deserved a better shot.”

For Ford, who has spent decades as journalist in Japan and China, being a part of this story meant abandoning the “objectivity” many reporters believe is key.

“Documentaries like mine are considered art, not journalism,” Ford said. “I don't believe objectivity exists. We all approach stories with a perspective and value system that is subjective.”

In the film, Ford makes her subjective nature very clear, treating Zanta's predicament as if social justice in this life were important. This contrasted with Zanta’s worldview, which was focused on her life to come. “When we first met, she made decisions based on prospects for her next life. She believed women are inferior, and her only hope for a better life would be if she could be reborn a man. In my film, I am up front about my perspective and values, and I do my best to introduce Zanta's value system and world views, as well as what happens when our world views clash.”

“Nowhere to Call Home” has been shown widely in China at universities, high schools and offices. Early in the making of the film, Ford was cautioned by other foreigners in China that she would not be allowed to finish, that Chinese censors would catch up with her. Despite these warnings, Ford forged ahead.

“Even I assumed initially I'd not be allowed to show my documentary in China,” Ford said. “But China is always changing. And in 2013 I kicked myself for falling into what I'm calling the ‘disengagementship trap,’ disengaging from China due to the assumption that you will not be allowed to do something. Before I knew it, Xinhua News Agency, the voice of the Communist Party, invited me to screen my film for editors.”

Ford’s determination and journalistic eye for detail has created a film that lays bare a part of the world that is often dismissed or obfuscated. “Nowhere to Call Home” reveals Zanta’s experience by walking next to her, and inviting us to do the same.

“Nowhere to Call Home” will be screened Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 from 5–7 p.m. in Disque Hall, room 103.