When The Last Tree Dies   [Award of Excellence - Canada International Film Festival 2014]


A 27-minute documentary film by Lynn Zhang & Shirley Han Ying about the water crisis in the North China Plain. It depicts the devastating consequences of water scarcity exacerbated by pollution.

The film follows a group of farmers who saw their orchards destroyed by water pollution, and their one-sided struggle against a major corporation and an unsympathetic local government to gain compensation.

Through the stories of the individual villagers and the predictions of local experts, we witness a paradise lost to economic progress, and the consequences of doing too little, too late. The full program is also available on Culture Unplugged.



Copyright © 2012 Shirley Han Ying & Lynn Zhang.


Narration by Chris Gelken;                            Written by Shirley Han Ying & Chris Gelken;                   Edited & Color Graded by Shirley Han Ying.

Filmed by Shirley Han Ying & Lynn Zhang;     Music all by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com), licensed under Creative Commons "Attribution 3.0"

Produced by Lynn Zhang & Shirley Han Ying in association with Center on U.S.-China Relations of Asia Society.


Staying Afloat: Life on a Disappearing Lake   [China File | Asia Society]


Water supplies on the North China Plain, an area that is home to 200 million and produces more than half of China’s grain, are among the scarcest per capita in the world. Centuries of damming and diversion for irrigation and flood control and recent decades of heavy industrial pollution have left the region parched on the surface and sinking deeper every year into the emptying aquifers beneath. 


Perhaps nowhere do the threats to the region’s water supply appear more menacing than on Lake Baiyangdian, the massive wetland known as North China’s kidney. In living memory, the lake teamed with fish, flushed pollutants from rivers that passed through it, and regulated the region’s climate. Today, it is shrunken and poisoned, barely able to support the people and animals who live on its waters, let alone the country beyond.


In this video, Chinese filmmakers Lynn Zhang and Shirley Han Ying train their camera on the people who have been both perpetrators and victims of Baiyangdian’s decline. They show us not just how its current predicament came to pass, but also the urgency of making sure the lake does not follow the region’s rivers into history. [Synopsis written by Susan Jakes]



Directed & Filmed by Lynn Zhang & Shirley Han Ying;  

Produced by David M. Barreda;  Edited by Lynn Zhang;

Color Graded by Shirley Han Ying; Narration by Jonathan Landreth;

Additional Editing by Susan Jakes & Michael Zhao. 

Copyright © 2014 Center on U.S.-China Relations of Asia Society