Mekong Alive

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Culture Documentary hosted by Carol Drinkwater, published by CCTV in 2010 - English narration

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This portfolio of films invites us to discover one of the longest rivers in the world, the Mekong. All along its course, from the Tibetan plateau to its mouth in the China Sea, on nearly 5.000 kilometres, this mighty river offers us uncountable enriching discoveries: the wonderful flora and rich fauna, the diversified landscapes of the Greater Mekong, the majestic mountains and wild gorges, the quiet lakes and breathtaking waterfalls.

We will discover countless temples set on its banks revealing the presence of Buddhism but above all, we will meet some of the 320 million people who live along the stream. It spreads over six countries: China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. With its abundant production of rice, fruits, vegetables and flowers, its basin has become what could be called the ‘garden of the world’, in comparison to Amazonia which is often called “the lung of the world”.

Even if the countries, languages, histories, customs and nationalities are different, this river remains the undisputed economical, social and spiritual link of the region, oft called the Greater Mekong. Many colourful characters, all living on the banks of the waterway, will guide us in the discovery of the magnificent natural landscapes and traditional customs, leaving us to wonder about the imprint those natural links on the People of the Mekong. And about the environmental challenges they have to face.

[edit] Deep in the Tropical Forest

This film offers to discover the course of the river, from its source to its delta. In a succession of spectacular images we will discover the extraordinary geographical route that the Mekong takes, from the Tibetan plateau, down the mountains of the Yunnan Province in China, then in the tropical valleys and the virgin forest of Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand before reaching the green plains of Vietnam, bursting with vital energy.

We will have a look at some ethnic groups that still live from gatherings and hunting, according to ancestral rules, even nowadays. Here, in the tropical forest, the river means Life. Here, nature abounds with wild animal species and rare plants and flowers that have to be protected. It is by discovering the rarest of them that we will understand that we face an extraordinary ecosystem, unequalled anywhere else in the world, making a huge contribution to the animal and vegetable diversity of our planet.

In Laos’ tropical forest we’ll discover a whole village still praying to the Gods of Trees, and in Thailand, we will meet with a hunter who will show us how, not so long ago, wild elephant were captured (for the preservation of Asian elephants, this practice has now been forbidden). And in the South of China, we will meet with a producer of natural rubber, on the border of rain forest, capturing the elastic white milk of gum trees. Yet, modern Times bring the challenge of a necessary adaptation, and are food for much concern.

[edit] In the Kingdom of Fish

At present, about 65 million people in the Greater Mekong live directly from it and enjoy the great diversity of fish the river has to offer. Fishing methods are of course different according to places and ethnic groups: in Cambodia we will discover the life of a family living on a boat. It is a real floating house set up in the middle of Lake Tonle Sap. Fishing techniques constantly vary according to the volume of water brought to the lake by the Mekong. In total contrast, we will discover, while going up the river, the cormorant fishing in China, in the region of Gullin. And in Vietnam, while reaching the mouth of the waterway, we will follow the attempt and difficulties of setting up a fish farm.

Once more, modern Times strongly challenge the fishermen in the Greater Mekong. Torn between tradition and modernity, these men and women have to make for themselves, and also sometimes for their children, decisions about new ways of life. Climate change and pollution add to the problem of a painful adaptation to a new life-styles.

[edit] The World's Vegetable Garden

The film will deal with the vast farming lands that the waters of the river irrigate throughout the year and more particularly in the South where the plains naturally become nourishing fields. It is a basin covering over 2,5 million square kilometres giving life to an utmost important “green” industry: the children of this agriculture are of course called rice, but also fruits, vegetables and flowers.

The most impressive beneficiaries of the river’s lavishness are the orchids and the lotuses. All along the Southern part of the course of the stream, the climate is very warm and favourable to the production of a large diversity of fruits. They are sold on the great market of Bangkok or, in a more traditional way, on the boats of the numerous floating markets. Also the climate of the Mekong region is ideal for rice growing. Farming methods are different according to the various countries and ethnic groups.

We will witness rice picking -Vietnam and Thailand-, producing of organic fruits –Thailand- and also horticulture in China and Thailand. The latter is one of the most important exporter of orchids, over 70 % of the world production. China grows all sorts of flowers and most of the big flower markets also work all night. Modernity and mass production are almost everywhere, as can be noticed in the gigantic flower market in Dounan, China, a miracle of a digital auction place. But in Can Tho City, in Vietnam, we will also follow the steps of a fruit seller working on one of the many floating markets where most of the deals have kept a human size.

[edit] Dragon's Paradise

This film will focus on the omnipresence of spirituality in the Greater Mekong. It will make us realize that, as it is the case for the Ganges in India, in the perception of the inhabitants of this region, the Mekong is of divine essence. The river, with each drop it carries to the valleys, it takes a little of the divinity of the sacred mountains where it takes its source.

The values of prosperity, as they are enhanced by the Western World, are in complete opposition with the values of renouncement of material wealth commended by Buddhist philosophy. As a matter of fact, over 90 % of the population of the Greater Mekong is Buddhist. The region is full of temples and pagodas because the spirits, the gods and the demons too are part of everyday life. They are the heroes of all festive events. It is more especially the dragon, as the symbol of superhuman forces, of spirituality and supreme power that still lives in the heart of the festive traditions of this part of the world.

If dragon-races and water feasts are the highlights of the spiritual year, Mekong people never forget to decorate their houses, their temples and their pagodas with dragons: they become real masterpieces of sacred architecture. In particular, most of the impressive temples are an exceptional homage to the divines forces worshipped in this part of the world, and the dragon is their symbol.

[edit] An Uncertain Future

This film looks at future of the Greater Mekong. It is by meeting with young people and with those who are in charge of preparing, educating and training them that we will be able to go deeper in search of some answers. The Buddhist philosophy takes an active part in the planning of the future. In Burma, we will follow the steps of a 10 year old boy going through his initiation by Buddhist monks. Then we will compare his experience with the one of a monk who has been living in his temple for over twenty four years. We will also meet with other youngsters, who still have a life to make for themselves, like this very young Vietnamese girl preparing to go to school for the first time and a young Chinese girl from the mountain.

As a conclusion, we wish to put the Great Mekong and its development in a historical perspective from the first men living from gathering, hunting and fishing to web businessmen proposing to the world to develop business with Internet technology. A region that is worth discovering especially when thinking of the part it will play in the future as the Garden of the World.

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Video Codec: x264 ,AVC-1
Video Bitrate: CRF 20
Video Resolution: 1280x720
Video Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Audio Codec: AC3
Audio BitRate: 192 kbps
Audio Streams: 2.0
Audio Languages: English
RunTime Per Part: 49 min
Number Of Parts: 5
Part Size: 1.36 GB
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