CHINA LOVE, directed by Olivia Martin McGuire, is a fascinating 2018 documentary about cultural evolution, contemporary China, love, marriage and the billion-dollar pre-wedding photography industry.
In a quite different light in comparison to the Western world, where wedding photography is only actually taken on your wedding day to capture the moment, ‘pre-wedding photography’ in China is more about selling the fantasy of happiness. Engaged couples book months in advance to have their pre-wedding photos, with photography sets even designed to look like different parts of the world. The documentary lingers a lot on Allen Shi and his company Jiahao Group, the biggest pre-wedding photography company in the world, where viewers are taken behind the scenes of the billion-dollar industry.
While the documentary does provide much exposure into the Chinese pre-wedding photography industry, it also dives deeply into Chinese marriage.
For young couples, pre-wedding photography with all the flashy sets and costumes is about looking enticing, glamorous and expensive, providing the dream of romance, being rich and a happy marriage. The pre-wedding photos provide young couples the opportunity to live in their ideal fantasies before reality sets in alongside its pressures. For the groom, he carries the expectations to provide an apartment for his soon-to-be wife and must display actions that will convince the bride’s family that he will be able to take care of her. For the bride, she is placed in a tough situation to bid farewell to her family, as after the wedding and official marriage, she is culturally expected to prioritise her husband’s family from then on.
For the elderly who were denied wedding photos in their youth, ‘pre-wedding photography’ takes on a whole different meaning. Living in a time during the Cultural Revolution where public affection and aspirations were forbidden, many elderly Chinese couples do not have any pre-wedding photos. Volunteer-run charity in Shanghai, Frame the Vow Charity, provide pre-wedding photoshoots for elderly couples to help them not only finally have their own pre-wedding photos, but they also provide a form of healing from a time of trauma and restriction, while also capturing incredibly wholesome moments of pure love.
Admittedly, it was these moments the film spent on the elderly couples finally having their pre-wedding photos taken at Frame the Vow Charity that moved me. Understatement – I was sobbing.
If you are keen to exposure yourself to contemporary Chinese culture, this excellent documentary is absolutely worth the watch. CHINA LOVE is a fascinating look into pre-wedding photography, Chinese culture, family, marriage and most of all, true love.
CHINA LOVE is available for free online to watch as part of the Tasmanian Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival who have gone digital this year. The festival ends on the 17th of May, so get in quick and watch some incredible films here: https://breath-of-fresh-air.com.au
For more information specifically on the film, visit: https://chinalovefilm.com