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China's 3Dreams


Twelve years in the making, China’s 3Dreams takes its audience deep inside the dreams and dilemmas of China’s people, with no presenter or narrator interposed between audience and subject. Every voice is a Chinese voice. The film’s subjects reveal with astonishing candour how the government affects their lives and explain the layers of corruption, the censorship of the internet, and especially the continuing traumatic effects on almost every family - of the Cultural Revolution, knowledge of which is still officially repressed.

Featuring rare archive and extraordinary testimony from former Red Guards and Rebels, here is a powerful parable of China in the twenty-first century.

*Genres: Culture, History, Human rights, Politics, China, Asia, Avant-garde, Social Issues, World Cinema, Independent Film, Philosophical, Psychology, Poetry, Education, Historical Archive

Director’s Note: Context and motivation:

In the 1990’s China was fast becoming the nation most crucial to the world’s future. But in the West, our information about and attitudes toward China have been filtered through the selective agendas of news, current affairs and factual TV which follows formulas and interposes western Presenters between the subject and the audience, This I believe obstructs genuine understanding and empathy.

To gather deeper insights I began a long-term documentary project, filming inside stories that could reveal the bigger picture, stories from ordinary people in China. The aim was to carry the voices of the people themselves showing how their lives are affected by the forces under which they live. It would be neither polemic nor outsider analysis, but an exploration of evidence from within.

Having witnessed so much change in China during 15 years of research and filming, I now have the opportunity to present the story. Very soon China’s “new generations” of young people will control its destiny. How will this change the future – theirs and ours?

The process:

Having started this in 1996 as a self-funded project, I managed to access in 2007 a small budget from the Australian Government’s Signature Documentary Fund to continue.

As the time passed and I kept filming alone, I gained the trust of the film’s main subjects and the project became a joint endeavour with them – a true collaboration. This was crucially so with the main subject Zhang Lei, whose enquiries into the reasons for her own unhappiness and her hunger for knowledge of what actually happened in her childhood and beyond became the film’s principal thread..

As the stories developed, this circle of trust grew wider, extending to the subjects’ families and ever further as people they knew were called in – people who had stories to tell of their own times as Red Guards, Rebels or victims during the Cultural Revolution.

Through this long-term confidence in the project and the film, the film’s subjects became extraordinarily candid with their knowledge and their stories. They wanted very much for this feature documentary film to be made and seen.

So we are privileged to learn their thoughts, fears and dreams, and the crucial importance of China’s Cultural Revolution years, which today leave a permanent and traumatic imprint on almost every Chinese family, but are rarely discussed. In China this “missing history” is neither taught in depth nor analysed, so the young are not interested.

And their elders are silent. …

Nick Torrens


English subtitle: 
Information for the Audience: 

CHINA’S 3DREAMS is a rare, 12-year-long intensive exploration of the dilemmas and dreams of China’s people from the inside -NO mediation from presenters or narrators. With extraordinary candour the subjects explain how China's policies affect their lives and happiness .  We learn also the continuing effects of the Great Cultural Revolution, which today leave a permanent and traumatic imprint on every Chinese family, but are rarely discussed. 

At this crucial moment in history, this film prompts the question: How will this situation change the future – theirs and the world’s?

Early responses to China’s 3Dreams

From Jan Rofekamp, CEO Films Transit International Inc, Montréal: “A beautiful, respectful and very important film, a completely universal document about digesting and understanding history.” 

From Jasmine Crittenden, Metro Film Journal: Torrens ventures deep into 21st century China, exploring what it means to grow up without access to one’s own history… (He) creates a complex portrait of a nation in flux.. one that transcends common media impressions, instead representing the plural perspectives of individuals directly affected by the major changes that have swept through China … His subjects discuss history, politics, values and dreams as they go about their daily rituals… Beautifully restrained, China’s 3Dreams affects us with its deep engagement with character and its naturalism, avoiding contrived dramatic structure and sentimentalism. We feel that we’re peering through a window on life as it happens.

From Dan Edwards, RealTime : Torrens’ film is far more nuanced and complex than much of the simplistic documentary work on China produced in the West—a result of the many years Torrens spent on the project, and the three China-related films he made before this one. Committed filmmakers like Nick Torrens should be recognised and supported as the leading cultural figures they are. 

From Li Xin, Managing Editor, China Wall Street Journal: It's very powerful: Chinese life that the West should know, that things are not black or white or red. Amazing you get them talk so candidly in front of the camera. Your work is so valuable, helping record lives in trying times, and making people search in their souls to find meanings and calling.

From Xinran, Author and writer The Guardian (UK): It has touched deep Chinese society! Less and less people care about a real past since that has been taken away by dead memory.. And dying elders.. After my book 'China Witness', I became so worried about young Chinese. They have been transforming into 'materialists with American label beliefs' Thank you for making this film and sharing the same passion with me !”

From Dr Ying Qian, Writer & Post-doctoral Fellow, ANU Centre on China in the World: The film is edited almost as a dreamscape. It’s so fragmentary, not chronological. It has the logic of a dream. I think of dreams as the unconscious. We are all driven by our conscious drives and desires. And so is the society. So when you see the China landscape through that emotional filming… you see the conscious shaping of the landscape. But you also get a glimpse of the unconsciousness in the society- the nightmares and the dreams.

From Hamdani Milas, Hong Kong producer: I am in awe. How did you achieve this remarkable access to such vocal and frank people? It’s been done over time I guess and you’ve built relationships and trust and a network of connections...  Excellent work of integrity and purpose.

From Dr Luigi Tomba, political scientist and Senior Fellow, ANU: These are almost private conversations despite being filmed. Somehow they were private conversations. They cannot put this criticism in black and white because the risk is very significant, but in private they will do it. 

From Julian Wood, FILMINK : There is a key scene towards the end… The fly on the wall camera catches a universal moment compacted with familial, personal, historical and political meaning. It is documentary gold. Only someone with Torrens’ connections, cultural understanding and patient eye for everyday truth could have packaged it so.

From main film subject Zhang Lei The release of this film is a breaking through the fog. You made me leave a bit footprints to the world. This requires the audience high attention, viewers need to watch carefully to see beneath the surface. There are many unspoken things which leave many sparks for thought and feelings. You want to see it again and again. There are many ways to enter, underground passages, dark alleys and forks, side tracks.. The movie has many surface riddles. The history of the nation’s suffering is like a river of Saints history. Once again I deeply grateful to you for bringing me everything!   Zhang Lei

Screenings / Awards: 

China’s 3Dreams (Documentary feature):

Awarded Best Feature Documentary, Australian Film Critics Circle, Winner Best Documentary Grand Jury Winner Hong Kong World International Film Festival, American Insight Free Speech Award Finalist, Grand Jury Winner Overall Audience Award Los Angeles World International Film Festival, Best Documentary, Singapore World International Film Festival, , Honourable Mention, Berlin International Film Awards, Winner Gold Award Best Documentary Asia Pacific, Dosima, Jakarta, Best Director Australian Directors Guild nomination, Best Documentary Sydney Film Festival nomination 

Film Festivals and cinemas to date: Cinema New York City Film Festival, Brooklyn Film Festival, F.I.P.A. Film Festival, Biarritz France, the innovative film festivals International Signes de Nuit in Paris, Lisbon, and in Saarbrücken where it was the Closing Night Event. American Insight Free Speech Awards, Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival in Myanmar; Les Ecrans de Chine, the European Festival of Chinese Documentary in Paris, Rome, Turin, Saarbrücken and  Milan, Festival International du Documentaire en Cévennes,; Also International film festivals in Sydney, Canberra and B.O.F.A; Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, World International Film Festivals in Singapore, Los Angeles and Hong Kong. Screenings with expert panel discussions at the Australian Centre on China in the World, and the University of Sydney. Theatrical screenings with discussion at London’s Deptford Cinema, Sydney’s Chauvel Cinema and King's College, London as part of the China Visual Festival. Coming soon are further festivals in Europe and the U.S.

Information for theatres: 

16:9 Colour and black and white

Distribution is being finalized, currently we- Nick Torrens Films -are handling it for all territories
Directed by: 
Nick Torrens
Writing credits: 
Nick Torrens
Produced by: 
Nick Torrens
Music by: 
David Bridie Also Zhang Si Yao and Ye Lianglin, performed by 裔流 CONTINUATOR on the CD “破茧而出 Break Out”, Female vocal by 唐文娟 Angel Tang / “Chopin: Prelude in D flat major ("Raindrop")
Cinematography by: 
Nick Torrens
Film Editing by: 
Nick Torrens
Casting by: 
Production Design by: 
Art Direction by: 
Set Decoration by: 
Costume Design by: 
Makeup Department: 
Production Management: 
Frank Haines
Other crew: 
Sound Recording by Nick Torrens, Sound Mix by Michael Gissing, Digital City Studios Online by David Tindale, FSM Sydney, Colourist Tristan La Fontaine
Release Date: 
Friday, June 6, 2014
Official website: 
Total votes: 12298