Deng Linlin holds back tears when she pulls off a move; she is wet-eyed when she misses one. And she is closest to crying when she disappoints her coach and herself. She walks barefooted on mats, and is masterful and delicate in her form as an athlete. But she is also a little girl.
The young gymnast and an Olympic hopeful has been training for years to be part of the 2008 Games.
Occasionally she puts her red teary-eyed frustrations into words. When she does, you get the sense that Gu Jun, the director of the official Olympics film, who has been following her and many others in the build up to the games is in her element. You also get the sense of the significance of the games to many generations.
The film guru has been documenting Olympic athletes for the official 2008 Beijing Games film titled Dream Weavers 2008.
"It was really difficult to find the characters. I chose one gymnast because she always cried and another because she was always happy," she says.
Gu sits around a table at China's Central Newsreel and Documentary Studio in Beijing. The doors and high ceilings leave the old room with a spacious feel. Before long newspapers are spread over the tables and a slew of Chinese dishes including rice, meatballs and pancakes are laid down. Gu chats openly with her colleagues, who address her as "the director" rather than by name. But, she is personable, humorous and modest.
"I felt honored to be a part of this film. Not just because the Olympics is a big event for China but also because the Olympics this year is a big event for the world."
For the past seven years, this has been her life. She has spent hours documenting the lives of others and patiently waiting for the moments that sum up the mood and spirit of pre-Olympic China, a story which is about to come to an end.
The endless footage of documentation was no easy task. Her crew shot thousands of meters of film and spent countless hours meeting, questioning and documenting the people - aware that only a fraction of the reel would make it into the final cut.
"We had to do lots of preparation and talked to each person we documented many times for long periods of time so we could become familiar with them. Documentary is like the soul. You make a film with your head but you have to search for the soul," she says.
Grandma Gao, an elderly woman - and one of the 3,973 villagers moved from their homes to make way for the Bird's Nest - was a difficult but worthwhile find. Gu first interviewed over 30 families, looking for the soul of her film and the spirit of the games.
"Where you live longest is the best right?" Gao says early in the documentary. She packs her belongings, which include writings of Mao Zedong she has not yet finished reading.
Gao's story touches on the experience of the old and new as punctuated by the timeline of construction of the Bird's Nest.
"I wanted to show what China is like now," Gu says.
The film crafts many stories from this simple objective and draws the conclusion that Beijing has become a city in waiting.
"Usually people do not care too much for documentaries compared to feature films. But, this one and all the characters were very special," she says.
One police commander is seen putting his team through a series of tough drills as he hopes for the best while preparing them for the worst. Other characters focus on avant-garde architects at the mercy of officials who fear the Bird's Nest may be too controversial, while another angle zeros in on the relationship between Liu Xiang and his coach as the hurdler runs thousands of meters of track for a race that will hopefully last no longer than 13 seconds.
Next Gu will shoot the second official Olympic film. She has been commissioned to make a documentary on the actual games and has already traveled across the world watching athletes train and prepare for the Games. She is already feeling the pressure of what the film will mean to the outside world.
The film looks ahead to the anticipation of a nation as 2008 will be remembered for the Beijing Games. But, the Olympic year will also be a remarkable year for Gu, as few others will have such raw access to the story.
"I knew that this film would be seven years long when I took the project," she says.
She laughs when asked if she felt changed by the process of making the film. But, she does point out one change in character. "By the end Deng Linlin does not cry so easily. This is very important," she says.
（英语点津 Helen 编辑）
About the broadcaster:
Brendan joined The China Daily in 2007 as a language polisher in the Language Tips Department, where he writes a regular column for Chinese English Language learners, reads audio news for listeners and anchors the weekly video news in addition to assisting with on location stories. Elsewhere he writes Op’Ed pieces with a China focus that feature in the Daily’s Website opinion section.
He received his B.A. and Post Grad Dip from Curtin University in 1997 and his Masters in Community Development and Management from Charles Darwin University in 2003. He has taught in Japan, England, Australia and most recently China. His articles have featured in the Bangkok Post, The Taipei Times, The Asia News Network and in-flight magazines.