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Series depicts realities of a bureaucratic environment

By XING WEN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-03-15 08:23

A still image from the TV series Sunrise on the River shows actress Mei Ting in her role as a doctor. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A recent television drama highlighting the government's commitment to building an ecological civilization in the new era has received extensive praise and positive reviews.

The series Sunrise on the River brings together a cast of seasoned actors, including Huang Zhizhong, Mei Ting, Jiang Wu and Zhang Guoqiang. It also weaves suspenseful plotlines into its portrayal of political and bureaucratic settings grounded in realism.

The narrative unfolds in the fictional city of Qijiang, which is renowned for its plentiful wetlands, but which is grappling with severe water pollution issues.

One day, Wang Wu, the deputy mayor responsible for environmental protection in the city, mysteriously drowns.

In the wake of this tragedy, Zheng Hanjiang, a professor from the School of Environmental Studies at Qijiang University, is thrust into the role. The character is played by Huang.

As the story progresses, it revolves around how Zheng unites other officials to address various environmental crises facing the city. Amid the competing interests of different groups, he tries to navigate the challenge of achieving a balance between environmental conservation and economic development. Throughout this journey, the truth behind Wang's demise gradually surfaces.

The main plot intertwines with stories such as the renovation of a food street, the handling of garbage in unfinished residential buildings and the hazardous pollution caused by illegal business activities affecting the health of residents.

The diverse storylines incorporate multiple environmental issues, illustrating the close connection between environmental governance and the everyday lives of people.

Huang was also the executive producer of the drama.

"From a professor teaching environmental protection at the university, to the deputy mayor in charge of environmental protection, the character I play undergoes a transition from a role scrutinizing the government to being the one under scrutiny, and this transformation is quite intriguing," he says.

He mentions that the primary challenge in shaping the role lay in the extensive dialogue.

"The volume of complex dialogue is substantial, but I hope the series will inspire viewers to take a more conscious environmental approach to life," he adds.

The drama is adapted from a novel of the same name.

A still image from the TV series Sunrise on the River shows the fictional members of the Qijiang city government, who are working to protect the local environment. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Its scriptwriter, Zhang Ting, is known for several well-received TV series. Among them, Wild Bloom, which is about a group of entrepreneurs in the 1990s. Another notable work is The Long River, which depicts how two capable officials managed to control flooding from the Yellow River during the reign of Emperor Kangxi in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The former has earned a score of 8.2 out of 10 points on the review site Douban, while the latter boasts a score of 8.3.

"We need artistic work that focuses on real life issues and addresses themes related to environmental protection," Zhang Ting says.

He adds that during the filming of the series, environmental experts provided advice, with the aim of creating a television drama that offers a professional perspective on environmental protection.

The series dedicates a great deal of attention to portraying the various facets of officialdom, such as the power struggle among officials with differing work philosophies. The depiction extends to the oppressive atmosphere and the verbal sparring, often filled with implicit meanings, in conference rooms and the corridors of power.

"In this drama, there isn't a 'villain'. Everyone is just carrying out their respective duties," Zhang Ting says.

Faced with the urgent demands of ecological and environmental development, each character must make a significant choice, he adds.

"The drama showcases the intricate interplay between individual interests and societal responsibilities in each character's choices. While the primary focus remains on the depiction of officialdom, the story also incorporates lighthearted and humorous moments, ensuring a well-rounded and engaging viewing experience," writes one viewer on Douban.

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