The fate of five families between the corridors, waiting rooms, and beds of Shanghai No. 6 Hospital. Director Ye Ye tells a piece of China in the documentary “H6”, presented at Cannes in 2021.
The destiny of five families is played out at Shanghai No. 6 Hospital. Through their intertwined stories, a portrait of today’s China emerges between traditional culture and modernity. Solidarity, tenderness, and a sense of humor allow families and patients to stay the course in the face of the vagaries of life.
DashFUN: How was the “H6” project born? What was your intention?
Ye Ye (director): It started during a hospitalization I suffered in France. I was surprised to see how the report of the disease was different than in my memories of China. Many things that I had forgotten while living abroad came to the surface. I wanted to reflect on this subject. So I went back to China to look for information. Very quickly, the idea of a documentary appeared to me as the best way to talk about the ideas I had in mind.
We see a lot of images about China, with very biased points of view, one way or the other. I wanted to leave the viewer face to face with real Chinese people so that they can form their own point of view. So that he realizes that the Chinese are humans like the others, even if their capacities for resilience are different from those of Westerners.
Were you surprised that in the Chinese hospital, the word “money” is so often pronounced, while the word “health” is almost absent?
I do not agree with the absence of the word “health”. Each of the characters thinks first of all about their physical health, but also about their psychological health in the face of the event. The money is there, of course, but my characters almost always find solutions to this problem. They are ready to do anything to recover their health and resume their lives. The Chinese are very realistic and believe that more money means faster and more effective care. Family and friends are always ready to help in these difficult times. They first think about money but very quickly focus on health. They also believe, as one character puts it, that a good mood helps to heal.
How would you compare the Chinese healthcare system and the French healthcare system?
It is impossible to compare the health systems of different countries. It may be noted that Americans who have seen the film never refer to the problem of money. Chinese society has crossed in thirty years what Western societies have taken more than a century to cross. China has advanced in the last decades by leaps and bounds in the medical field.
Today, there are hospitals everywhere, with very well-trained medical personnel. It is generally very efficient and fast. I cannot say that she has reached this level without obstacles, but I can say that there is no problem in accessing services. Since the shooting of the film, the peasants have had better access to social security. In the case of Nie Shiwu, the problem is more the absence of personal insurance (like Civil Liability) than that of Social Security.
You film the Chinese hospital like a factory and its staff like health care workers. Is that what the daily life there inspired you?
In China, there are 1.5 billion people. A city like Shanghai has more than 25 million inhabitants. Inevitably, everything is on a different scale. So, a station, a post office, a hospital, it’s always a lot of people. It takes a very strict organization for it to work. Despite the workload, we see in the film that nurses and doctors are often very human. They talk with the sick about something other than the disease.
How did you choose your “characters”? Was this done during filming, editing, or had you spotted these different profiles beforehand?
I had spotted profiles during my investigation. I wanted a certain number of characters representative of contemporary China. I knew I would find them. It was simply necessary to choose the most interesting. In such a large hospital, the problem of “casting” does not (unfortunately) arise. There are always sick or injured people.
For me, the editing started right from the shoot. I was constantly editing in my head. I filmed eight families to keep only five in the editing, in order to have harmony and rhythm in the film.