Many China documentaries of the last decade have focused on the human cost of this nation becoming the world’s main manufacturer. Some portray the dramas behind long working hours and low wages on which people struggle to survive. Other films centre on China’s bizarre fascination for Western culture and their desire to emulate it.

Bianca-Olivia Nita
Bianca-Olivia Nita
Bianca is a freelance journalist and documentary critic. She is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: January 6, 2017

As a result, you would expect a film about the people who paint Vincent van Gogh replicas in the Dafen village – the world’s largest oil painting village – to fall somewhere between these narrative lines.

But, surprisingly, Haibo and Kiki’s debut documentary is not the usual depiction of hardship or even of the oddity of wanting to copy Western art. Instead, it tells the personal story of Zhao Xiaoyong, a self-made painter who found a way out of poverty through mastering a skill: Xiaoyong has painted which, over the last two decades, has seen a growing demand.

<br>[ntsu_youtube url="

Dafen village was founded in 1988 by Hong Kong businessman Huang Jiang. To start with, there were only 20 painters. But, over time the village expanded. In 2015, it turned over 65 million dollar, with more than 10.000 painters currently working there, many of whom peasants-turned oil-painters, just like Zhao Xiaoyong.

Alongside members of his family, Xiaoyong owns a painting shop specialising in van Gogh. The shop is not a creative space, but a business. Many people are painting day and night to meet the deadlines, and the pressure and hard work do not seem any different to sewing jeans or checking ironing machines on a factory line.

However, working in Dafen differs from working in a factory. There is a contrast in people’s self-perception and the type of competition that exist between them. In Dafen, a new niche market means a change …

Dear reader. You have already read a free review/view article today (but all industry news is free), so please come back tomorrow or login if you are a subscriber? For 9 euro, you will get full access to around 2000 articles, all our e-magazines – and receive the coming printed magazines.