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Arts & Culture

POV: Still Tomorrow

Yu Xinhua writing poems.
Courtesy of Jian Fan
Yu Xinhua writing poems.

Airs Monday, Aug. 6, 2018 at 11 p.m. on KPBS on KPBS TV

Defying Social and Cultural Norms, a Rural Poet Captures a Nation’s Attention

Yu Xiuhua, a secluded poet made famous by social media, is on a search for meaning in a life marked by numerous struggles.

“Still Tomorrow” chronicles distressing disputes in her family, her sudden rise to prominence and her navigation of a complicated marriage, all of which unfold while she is living in rural China with cerebral palsy.


Jian Fan skillfully gives us a glimpse into the life of this bold woman who is consistently challenging the status quo.

“Still Tomorrow” has its national broadcast and streaming debut on POV on Monday, Aug. 6, 2018.

The film constantly plumbs the dynamics of dichotomies: peace and labor, rural and urban, family support and independence. It opens with the tranquil landscape of a family farm paired with a captivating verse by Yu herself.

The engine behind her sudden fame is particular to the 21st century: social media.

In late 2014, a small collection of her work was published on a popular website. Due to numerous shares and posts, her poems went viral.


That she has cerebral palsy makes her accomplishments all the more astonishing.

Yu, who often feels confined physically and socially, embraces poetry as an outlet.

“Poetry makes me understand that it's important to live on,” she says. “It supports me. Without poetry, life is empty. When I write, I feel poems give me peace and tranquility.”

But her openness leads to disagreements with her parents. Their conflicts reveal a generation gap in rapidly urbanizing China, where the allure of modern city life is causing people to defy centuries-old expectations that they will marry early and build families.

At one point, as Yu and her mother argue over a life-changing decision for Yu, the poet pointedly asks, “You live for others or for yourself?”

“For others,” her mother simply replies.

As book publishers eagerly come calling, Yu begins to question her dependence on her husband, who travels to Beijing for construction jobs.

Jian Fan needs only the camera and its shots of the quiet dirt roads near Yu’s house and the roaring construction sites where her husband works to tell the corresponding story of China’s rapid economic ascent.

“'Still Tomorrow' is a film about transformation,” said Justine Nagan, executive producer/executive director of POV/American Documentary. “How can we transform ourselves, despite the limitations — physical or social — imposed on us? It also explores an entire nation’s renewal, one where upwardly mobile people are adjusting to new social norms that seemingly change daily. Yu Xinhua, a woman who refused to be bound by what was given her, perfectly embodies both these stories.”

Yu Xinhua
Courtesy of Jian Fan
Yu Xinhua


This film will stream online on in concurrence with its broadcast. Full episodes of POV are available to view on demand for a limited time after broadcast.


POV is on Facebook, Google +, and you can follow @povdocs on Twitter. #StillTomorrowFilmPBS


Director is Jian Fan. Producers are Yu Hongmiao and Xu Zitao. Cinematography by Xue Ming and Jian Fan. Executive Producers for POV: Justine Nagan and Chris White. Produced by American Documentary, Inc., POV is public television’s premier showcase for nonfiction films.