CHINA, April 28,China Daily - "Amazing", "fantastic", "unprecedented" were but a few of the comments from the audience after the screening of Chinese pioneering wildlife photographer Xi Zhinong's latest documentary Mystery Monkeys of Shangri-La, which tells the story of the snub-nosed monkeys of China's Yunnan province.
Inspired by his encounter with the snub-nosed monkeys of White Horse Snow Mountain in Yunnan province two decades ago, Xi's film brings into focus the status of wild animal conservation in China.
In a Q&A with the audience after the screening, Xi discussed the plight of the last known group of the monkeys that live in snowy forests at the highest elevations of any monkey species on earth and the efforts to protect them.
Xi Zhinong, director of Mystery Monkeys of Shangri-La, takes questions from the audience after the film's screening at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington on April 23. Photo provided to China Daily
Xi said that even after a reduction in habitat-destroying commercial logging that came on the heels of conservation policies, a threat still remained to the snub-nosed monkeys due to a rise of tourism. This is one of the major concerns of conservationists now, he said.
Xi expressed in an earlier interview with China Daily that he just hoped his work "could make the public familiar and like the wildlife, and further invoke growing public awareness about the protection of wild animals and nature".
Biologist Matthew P. Scott, president of the Carnegie Institution for Science, described the documentary as "beautiful, sensitive about the animals and important for giving the message about conservation".
"This kind of movie is very important for motivating our work," he told China Daily. "And this film makes me feel even more strongly about how important conservation is."
"We have a number of objectives for this film," said Alexandra S. Garcia, executive director of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP), a co-host of the screening. "We wanted to help get the message out of how conservation is going in China."
"If we can highlight some of the positive things," she added, "it might encourage and inspire others to emulate. This is a model that other areas of China can follow."
"You know I never really thought about the conservation issue in China, but it is great that this film makes me see it," said Nick Garcia, who brought his girlfriend Lexi to the screening.
"The scenery is absolutely stunning," Garcia said. "I think they did a good job documenting the monkeys like humans, such as how the monkeys take care of each other. The story-telling is really good."
Lexi said that the film had so many connections to the theme of family and emotions in animals that she was moved to tears when the baby monkey died.
Liu Zhao, an independent filmmaker based in New York City, called Xi's film one of the best documentaries in China. "Its way of story-telling and characterization of monkeys makes the documentary more like a vivid story, which might not be so easily achieved by many other filmmakers," he said.
The film had premiered a day earlier at the Asia Society in New York on April 22.
The event in Washington was co-sponsored by the ILCP, the Carnegie Institution for Science and the Chinese Embassy.