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Behind the Scenes | CandleX’s Documentary on Depression


In 2015, CandleX produced our own short documentary on depression. Ever since then we’ve been screening it around Beijing at The Bookworm, Beijing Mindfulness Center, and Culture Yard, just to name a few.

Although we were not nominated for an Oscar (what?!), we have accomplished a lot in Beijing: raising awareness of depression in our community. This short film helped us break the ice and brought people together to start meaningful conversations around depression.

As some of you already know, the whole thing – planning, filming, editing - was done by Xiaojie, founder of CandleX. surprisingly, she had no prior experience at all. She went to Thailand with her iPhone (no, it’s not an ad here!), stayed at the New Life Foundation for a week in 2015, and then came back with all of the footage. After three months of struggling to learn how to use editing software, the documentary came to life.

“When resources are scarce, work with what you have!” Xiaojie said. “My journey of recovery started there in Thailand in 2014. I want to bring the same light to other places, starting with my own community here, in Beijing. I am sure the audience will forgive the rough execution”.

You can read Xiaojie’s story on our other post: My Story with Depression, New CandleX Column Launch

The documentary is called “The Tiny Little Box”, to reflect the feeling Xiaojie had going through major depression episode herself. “Have you ever wondered how does it feel to walk among people, work and talk with people, but at the same time being apart from them? Curled up in a tiny little transparent box, you are in the world, but you are not really present?” Xiaojie said.

Watch this full documentary (33 mins) here

To understand the stories and intentions that bring the documentary forward, we conducted an interview with Xiaojie:

1) Xiaojie, what was it that drove you to make this documentary?

I think my own experience was the main drive of this documentary. The first time I went to Thailand was for myself, to deal with my post-depression healing and what I learned there made me go back to film this short documentary. During my stay in Thailand at the New Life Foundation Center in 2014, I felt first had the power of sharing one’s own story – myself I have never shared anything about my depression before.

(to read about her reflections, “Bad Things Happen, But Why Me?-Xiaojie's Story with Depression”)

I think social pressure, shame and guilt made me want to keep the whole thing for myself. However, during “Life Story” evening session in center in Thailand, I finally chose to share my story with the group and that moment for me was life-changing. I have never believed that sharing could be so powerful and empowering. Sharing helps you put your story into perspective and even see it in a positive light.

Sharing my story was a big push for me, and it made me take the first step towards recovery. This is the simple idea that insipired my documentary: I wanted to help people share their stories and join me in this awareness-raising project. Yes, back then. CandleX was just 3 months old. I had no idea how it would go. But I knew if I keep doing the right thing, eventually, it’d come together. So this documentary is an endeavor to also explore ways for CandleX to provide meaning change in Beijing.

Now, we’ve been on this road for 2 years!

2) Why do you feel is important to share stories about depression? As I mentioned before, sharing your story is a powerful moment, one may say that is an ice-breaking moment for a lot of people. In my experience, a lot of people affected by depression never get to share their story with their closest friends, family or partner (to learn about the art of telling, visit our Classroom that gives you the guidance ).

During my offline awareness-raising events in Beijing, I am frequently asked: “How to deal with depression? Is there anything I can do about it?” Well, I think that sharing is the first step. You can’t go around it! The dirt is really just under your rug! Talking about it is like sweeping it out.

It’s scary and uncomfortable at first, but hey, your room will be clean. When your mind is clean, it will better analyze factors in your life make you vulnerable to depression. It helps you face depression and open up. Without this step, people do not learn, they misunderstand and discriminate instead.

Does talking heal depression? No, but it gets you on that road.