If you haven’t already seen it, our Sunday film recommendation is BBC’s documentary on Ding Yu, host of the extraordinary Chinese talk show Interviews Before Execution. (The good folks over at Reddit recently found the above video.) For just over five years — more than 200 episodes — Ding interviewed prisoners on death row, often in the moments just before their execution. She earned the nickname “Beauty with the Beasts,” but the inmates she talks to are rarely unrepentant monsters; more likely, they are flawed human beings full of regret, sometimes agony — and who will pay the ultimate price for one fateful mistake.
The weekly show ran on Henan Legal Channel and online, and was deservedly popular: it’s powerful, emotional, and probably the realest thing you’ll ever see on Chinese TV.
And it was cancelled in March. According to The Independent:
However, the show may have become the victim of its own success after international TV stations, including the BBC, made documentaries about the programme.
Once again, Chinese censors cannibalize the country’s soft power push. You can do any kind of TV here except the kind that depicts a too-real reality.
China’s death row TV hit: Interviews Before Execution (BBC News Magazine)