With support from a long-time client and a creative approach to funding, photographer Sim Chi Yin has just released this video showing an old project from a new, more immersive angle. The video profiles Zhang Xi, a college graduate turned street peddler who is part of Beijing’s “Rat Tribe,” so named because they live in sub-standard apartments in the basements and former bomb shelters of the city.
Sim’s portraits of “Rat Tribe” basement dwellers, which she began making in 2010, have been widely published–and widely acclaimed. She previously produced a multimedia slideshow of the portraits. But this video expands on her earlier work by exploring how one subject ended up living in a Beijing basement, the tension it has caused with his parents, and what day-to-day life is like for him.
The video, published January 24 by Creative Time Reports (CTR) and Al Jazeera America, is also a case study in multi-source production funding. Sim says it was first “leanly funded” by CTR, a media website that commissioned the video last fall for a European conference on migration issues. For additional funding, Sim applied to the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. Around the same time, Al Jazeera America, which has supported the “Rat Tribe” project in the past, asked Sim for new portraits of Beijing basement dwellers, and an updated multimedia piece. So she put CTR and Al Jazeera in touch with each other, and “they decided to work together and timed their publications to appear on the same day.”
Sim hired producer Yin Jiawei, a recent college graduate, to work as a fixer and assist with the shooting. The video was edited by Jian Yi, a freelance Chinese filmmaker.