Mainland filmmaker Li Yang says that children are the hope of mankind, but this doesn't seem to be the reality in his homeland. Survival comes first. A hopeful future is a lot to ask for young people living in remote villages. Take the teenage coalmine worker in Li's Silver Berlin Bear-winning debut feature Blind Shaft. In an effort to earn the money to go to school, he takes on dangerous, back-breaking work. 'I have an urge to take on social responsibility. Society has improved a lot and [child labour] should not exist any more. But on the mainland the school fees are extremely high and a lot of people cannot afford them. If these children do not receive any education, they have to work hard as a labourer. If China wants to be one of the strongest nations in the world, the government should focus on education, as it is most important,' the 43-year-old filmmaker told SYP. In Blind Shaft, 16-year-old Yuan Fengming (Wang Baoqiang) is forced to leave school because his family cannot afford the tuition fees. He goes to the city looking for work and meets coalminers Song Jinming (Li Yixiang) and Tang Zhaoyang (Wang Shuangbao). They promise to get him a job in the mines if he pretends to be Song's relative, and say that he is 18 years old. But the truth is that Song and Tang plan to kill Yuan in the mine and claim the financial compensation. Blind Shaft, which was banned on the mainland because it did not obtain filming approval from the government, has won more than 10 international awards, including the Silver Berlin Bear for an artistic contribution at this year's Berlin International Film Festival and Silver Firebird award at the Hong Kong International Film Festival. Li, who lives in Berlin, adapted the script from the novel Shen Wu, meaning sacred wood, which won the Lao She Prize, the highest literary award in China. He says that Yuan did not exist in the book. He created the character because he believes there is still hope for the people of China. 'The boy is innocent and loving. He is observant of the adult world. Witnessing human nature and experiencing adolescence make him change. But I leave an open and optimistic ending,' he says. Blind Shaft is filmed in a documentary style. Hand-held camera work and natural lighting contribute to the visuals. Sounds recorded on location were used instead of a crafted music score. Li's experience has helped him develop a unique style. After studying film directing at the Beijing Broadcast Institute and later in Germany in the late 1980s, Li made documentaries as well as pursuing an acting career in Germany. He says that the story of Blind Shaft was the kind of event that could happen every day in China. 'Fatal accidents happen every day in these coalmines. Right after finishing the film, I found out that two coalmine workers died in the coal mine where the movie was set. 'Coalminers are the lowest of the lowest class in China. Social values are changing accordingly with the domination of a market economy. [In the film] they kill to make money. But film is not about crime or killing. It has a lot more social meanings. People have to struggle with humanity,' he says.