"Captivating but Flawed"
What You Need To Know:
BORN IN CHINA is beautifully photographed and edited. All three stories are captivating in their own way. However, one of the main animal characters dies, which leads to a sadness at the end that may be shocking for younger children. Also, the movie makes a couple references to China’s reincarnation mythology. Despite this, most of BORN IN CHINA has a pro-family message focusing on animal parents and their children.
(PaPa, BB, FRFR, RH, V, M) Mixed pagan/moral worldview with moral elements stressing the importance/value of family and a couple references to false pagan beliefs in reincarnation centered on the cycle of the four seasons, some implied revisionist history about religion in China; no foul language; some nature violence such as animals eating other animals, snow leopards fight, monkees fall while jumping around but are not hurt, baby panda tumbles end over end down a small hill, and one animal dies during its struggle to survive; no sex; no nudity; no alcohol; no smoking or drugs; and, documentary says reincarnation is an ancient Chinese belief, but it’s actually a rather recent belief (historically, ethical monotheism and animal sacrifice to atone for sin are much older religious beliefs in China, but that fact has been forgotten by most).
BORN IN CHINA is a nature documentary about five types of animals living in the vast wilderness of China’s varied landscapes, including some monkeys, a family of snow leopards, a female panda and her cub, the red-crowned crane, and a type of antelope called the chiru. BORN IN CHINA is a captivating documentary with a pro-family message, but it has a couple references to Chinese beliefs in reincarnation and a sad conclusion to one of its three main stories, which could bother younger children.
The movie focuses on a cute 2-year-old snub-nosed monkey named TaoTao; a panda mother named YaYa and her new daughter, MeiMei; and, a snow leopard called Dawa, who has to fight to feed her two cubs in a harsh, unforgiving environment. TaoTao finds himself on the outs with his family when his mother gives birth to his new baby sister. So, he gets involved with a mischievous gang of male monkeys, who play rough. YaYa is over-protective of her cub, who’s anxious to explore her surroundings on her own. Dawa has difficulties getting food for her own cubs, especially when another family of snow leopards enters her territory.
BORN IN CHINA is beautifully photographed and edited. All three stories are captivating in their own way. However, one of the main animal characters dies, which leads to a sadness at the end that may be too shocking for younger children. Also, the movie makes a couple references to China’s reincarnation mythology. The narrator says that, in Chinese folklore, the red-crowned crane takes human and animal souls to a new place when the body dies. Toward the end, the narrator adds that this journey leads to a new life as in reincarnation. To press this point, the documentary is organized around the four seasons. It starts with Spring, then proceeds to segments set in Summer, Autumn, Fall, and back to Spring, which is where the overt reference to reincarnation (or “rebirth”) occurs in the movie.
In reality, Chinese beliefs in reincarnation are a later addition to Chinese folklore because the concept of reincarnation wasn’t created by the Hindu religion until the 9th Century B.C. In fact, research has shown that the first religion in China (dating back to 2200 B.C. or earlier) was a form of ethical monotheism, the idea of one Creator God (called Shang-di or “Heavenly Ruler”), who establishes ethical rules for human behavior. Shang-di even demands an animal sacrifice to atone for sin, a ceremonial act the Chinese Emperor actually performed each year until 1911. Of course, it was the Ancient Egyptians and the Ancient Hebrews, who had views of the afterlife that included forms of physical resurrection. Their beliefs are much older than the earliest forms of Hinduism, Buddhism or Taoism found in China or India. In fact, evidence from many anthropologists has shown that, from the very beginning of known human history, including the history of the earliest tribes and cultures, mankind has had a belief in a single, benevolent Creator God who makes ethical demands on human beings. It was only later that human beings developed competing religious ideas, probably beginning with forms of animism, spiritualism, polytheism, and beliefs about occult powers. Tellingly, that’s exactly what the Bible records in its description of human history beginning with the Book of Genesis.
On the positive side, BORN IN CHINA focuses a lot on family relationships. Thus, YaYa the panda and Dawa the snow leopard are all about taking care of their children. And, TaoTao the monkey eventually returns to his own family, where he is welcomed back once his baby sister is able to start taking care of herself.
Despite the references to reincarnation, therefore, BORN IN CHINA contains some strong positive lessons that make it worthwhile viewing.