Doctor turns director to dispel myths about what can be a difficult, sometimes dangerous, job
Resident surgeon at Shanghai's Renji Hospital Bian Zhengqian does not accept the demonisation of medical staff and doctors. He tells Alice Yan that for the past year he has spent almost all the free time he has - after gruelling hospital hours - shootin
What is this film about?
It describes the experience of four interns working in a hospital and reflects, through their eyes, the real pressures on doctors who suffer from excessive working hours, poor pay and frequent conflicts with patients. These conflicts can be verbal abuse or even being physically attacked by patients or their families. At the end of their internships, the four students, who were determined to save people's lives through medicine, choose different careers, with only one still choosing to be a doctor. The other three decide to study abroad, join a medical insurance company and do laboratory research instead.
This film, about 90 minutes long and on a serious topic, targets ordinary people who have scant knowledge of the work doctors really do, so I added some relaxed and romantic elements to make it more appealing to the viewers.
Why did you decide to make this film?
I think there are too many misunderstandings about doctors. If you watch a television series the doctors all look really great and earn big money easily. Also, many negative media reports tell the public that all doctors take commissions from drug companies and that doctors are actually inhuman. I am very unhappy with the unfair treatment of doctors, so I came up with the idea of shooting what we actually do every day and what our working environment is like. In fact, I think the pressure has become greater recently and the relationship between society and doctors has soured.
All the incidents in the plot are either from my own experience or what I've heard about from my colleagues. For example, in one scene, a nurse refuses to administer an injection to a male patient who has used another person's medical insurance card. The nurse is attacked and beaten by him and nobody around dares to stop the beating. In another, an angry patient shouts at a doctor and threatens to kill his family. In the film a doctor says: 'The current environment is worse than that of the Sars period. During the Sars crisis doctors were in a dangerous position, but they were respected by the public.'
What do you think of the quality of this film, since you are not a professional film-maker?
In my eyes it is a masterpiece. I and dozens of other medical staff who worked on this movie put our fullest efforts into it and charged no fees. The last scene of the film was finished recently and it is expected to be shown at some local hospitals and on websites in several months - after the editing process has been completed.
The script was written by me and some interns. I was the only investor, director, photographer, lighting engineer - even the person who bought boxed meals. Before shooting this film I had no knowledge of photography and I thought the film production could be completed in just two months. Later I found that it was a really complicated process and I picked up some film production know-how from the internet. Now I use hospital trolleys to mount my camera and tell actors to repeat a scene many times until I am satisfied with their performance. My actors are all amateurs - they are my hospital staff. I am moved by the support they showed by performing after work or on weekends.
Why did you choose to study medicine?
I was attracted to the job by a Japanese TV series that depicted a handsome surgeon who had grasped advanced operation skills. I admired him, so I applied to the Shanghai No2 Medical University in 1996. I got my master's degree in general surgery seven years later. But clinical practice showed me that a doctor's life is not glamorous at all. It involves long hours, is poorly paid and you have to put up with mistrust from patients and worry about possible medical accidents.
Doctors in my department work on average of more than 80 hours a week over six days. Once I performed surgery that lasted 14 hours on a patient with carcinoma of the bile duct. I didn't go to the toilet or eat anything except a piece of chocolate provided by a nurse. In another case, I found a man had removed the gastric cannula from his father, who had had an operation the day before. I told the young man he was wrong to do that, as it would put the patient's life at risk. The son, believing himself to have enough knowledge of the disease, scolded and threatened to kill me. I was scared for a week.
Do you still like this difficult job?
Yes, I do, otherwise I would have quit in the first year or two. I think people pursuing other interests do not stay doctors. Most doctors are responsible and they just want to cure illness. If I was forced to leave medicine, I would not know what other work I could do.