The Sichuan Hard Road

The Sichuan Hard Road presents a unique and informative testimony by expert scientists and expert survivors. The 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake took by surprise communities and authorities in Sichuan Province, China. But in spite of its tragic outcome, this seismic episode increased regional awareness of multi-hazard tectonic risk including severe shaking, avalanches and mudflows. This event also contributed to the overall improvement of earthquake preparedness in a region defined by a wide variety of terrain in both rural and urban areas. Watch the film’s extended trailer here:

We collaborated with the Earth Observatory of Singapore and the China Earthquake Administration in the making of a film that explains to mainstream audiences some of the unique scientific facts and tectonic risk inherent to this region. The film also seeks to make an emotional connection with local viewers and to communicate some of the lessons learned. The Sichuan Hard Road documentary film presents testimonies from survivors throughout the Longmenshan fault region, it is spoken in Chinese and Sichuanese with English subtitles.

Prof. Xu Xiwei, China Earthquake Administration.

Asst. Prof. Wei Shengji, Earth Observatory of Singapore.

A behind-the-scenes look at the making of this film was presented at the Asia Oceania Geosciences Society (AOGS) 2019 Conference in Singapore, and the American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2019 Fall Conference in San Francisco, California.

The terrain of some areas in Sichuan is defined by steep mountains and valleys. This fact is presented in the classic poem The Hard Road to Shu written by Li Bai 李 白 (701–762). The poem is included in Tang Shi 唐 詩, an anthology of 320 poems from the golden age of Chinese poetry. Excerpts from the 8th century poem reveal how remote and dangerous the site seemed then and now:

Oh, but it is high
and very dangerous!
Such travel is harder
than scaling the blue sky.
…while the river far below
lashes its twisted course.

Such height would be hard
for even a yellow crane,
so pity the poor monkey
who has only paws to move.

Dry pines hang from the cliffs
and a thousand plunging
waterfalls outroar one another,
sending a thunder of
spinning stones
through ten thousand valleys.

With all this danger
upon danger,
why do people who live
at a safe distance
come here?

Pre-release poster for the film.

The Sichuan Hard Road
A documentary feature film by Isaac Kerlow
Produced by the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) in collaboration with the China Earthquake Administration (CEA)
Total running time: Est. 40-50 min, color
Planned Completion Date: Postproduction on hiatus during 2020, Production completed
In Chinese and Sichuanese with English subtitles

Partial Production Credits
Written and Directed by ISAAC KERLOW
Still Photography: RUI PESTANA
Narration: LIM YU-BENG
Original Music: SERGIO MOURE
Additional Camera: ISAAC KERLOW
Field Sound: CAI JIAJUN
Image Stabilization: MARK CHEUNG
Animation: WANG RUI FAN
Produced by: ISAAC KERLOW
On-Site Production Coordination: CAI JIAJUN
Additional Production Coordination: ANTOINETTE JADE, JINGQIN TIORANU

Screenings and Awards

The Sichuan Hard Road feature film is scheduled to be completed in late 2020, but the extended trailer and the animated segment Bend of Break have been submitted to a few festivals.

August 2020
Raw Science Film Festival, Los Angeles, California, and Costa Rica, Extended Trailer

April 2020
Beverly Hills Film Festival, Los Angeles, World Premiere.

December 2019
AGU Cinema 2019 (American Geophysical Union), San Francisco. Private screening of the extended trailer.

The Sichuan Hard Road is a Singapore/China co-production partially funded by the AXA Research Fund, The Earth Observatory of Singapore at NTU, the National Research Foundation, Ministry of Education, and private donors.