Dwarf in China

A Dutch street performer and his magical music box bring intrigue to rural China

Dwarf in China A dwarf, a dragon, and a golden egg. Yet the real fairy-tale of this film is the journey of Jeanmarie, the Dutch performer. In an adventurous project he teams up with Frank to travel through the last remaining untouched regions of China, performing his new show to local children. As they transport their wondrous music machine from village to village, they bring laughter to all who see their magical performance. Reuniting reality with fantasy, Europe with Asia.

"Woopie wow guys!" A large box is carefully prised open to reveal yet another wooden box, this time a newly-made barrel organ, a wondrously intricate machine that will bring their show to life. Jeanmarie's hands tremble as he carefully feeds the organ music card into the magical mechanism, yet as he turns the handle, the instrument's whimsical flutes breathe into life, and in turn Jeanmarie breathes a sigh of relief. The excitement in his face is palpable: he and Frank are now ready to perform.

The Dwarf in China is a touching insight into the pursuit of magic by two men from the Netherlands in an effort to ward off the sterile harshness of modern reality. This duo of child entertainers, Jeanmarie and Frank, have joined forces in their tour of the mountain regions of China, bringing joy to school children with their delightful show involving a dwarf, a dragon, and a golden egg.

The film offers a tantalising glimpse into life within extremely remote village communities in the Yunnan region, as we gaze through the imaginative eyes of Jeanmarie, experiencing with him the hospitality of the local people. The film creates a dynamic fusion between the two cultures, bringing together two traditions of folklore from Asia and Europe into one universal impression of humanity. As Frank is earlier named "foreign teacher", the concept of foreignness is subtly questioned throughout the film, and replaced by a performance that connects diverse different peoples through a shared sense of "pure enjoyment".

However, this dream-like sense of harmony is forever threatened, as Jeanmarie struggles over "finding the balance between how far you go in dreaming your own reality with respecting the fact that we were born in this world with a number of hard economic facts that keep everyone in a straight-jacket." As their journey continues, their determination to spread wonder to their audiences comes up against many logistical difficulties, yet their belief in creating something special between themselves and the people of China is the resounding message of their magical culture-crossing voyage.

In a film as imaginative and whimsical as Jeanmarie's play itself, this is a poignant tale of passion and conviction to follow and fulfil your dreams.

Laurel Official Selection - Doc Outlook International Market, Visions du Reel 2015
Laurel Special Festival Mention - 5th Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival 2015


The Producers

Ben Arend Reisman is the producer, director and editor of The Dwarf in China. Born in Israel and raised in a small village in the Netherlands, cultures and their differences and commonalities have always fascinated him and been an integral part of his life and work. He has worked in advertisement, owns his own film production company specialising in creating medical explanatory films, animations and fundraising films for NGOs. This is his first documentary.

Anne-Sophie Markus is the co-producer and co-director of The Dwarf in China. She is a an extremely talented cinematographer, photographer, stylist and designer. She owns Fiet View, a media production company with a strong passion for images, still or moving, artistic or commercial. This is her first documentary.

Making The Film

The journey of making this film started with a leap of faith into the unknown wonders of the remote mountain regions of Southwest China, following Jeanmarie with his European fairytale-theatre-road-show. We jumped into it with all our savings and with some great help from family and friends. Even though we left with an idea of what we were looking for, we could never have foreseen what would be handed to us by life itself. The joy on the faces of the children and local villagers truly is the stuff of magic, as were all the helping hands along the way making everything fall into place. With this film we tried to capture the soul of everything that took place and we hope that it will take you along on a wondrous adventure.

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