ZHAO LIANG AND HIS FILMS PETITION, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT AND TOGETHER

ZHAO LIANG AND HIS FILMS PETITION, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT AND TOGETHER

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Zhao Ling
Zhao Liang is another highly-acclaimed Chinese independent documentary filmmaker whose best known work is “Petition”. On his start in film Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times, ‘sFrustrated with his work as a television cameraman in his hometown, Dandong, on the frigid border with North Korea, Mr. Zhao’s way out was a one-year fellowship to the venerable Beijing Film Academy, where directors like Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige had trained. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, August 13, 2011]

At screenings, Mr. Zhao became exposed to the works of foreign directors whose slow, methodical styles greatly influenced him. His favorite was Andrei Tarkovsky, the Soviet director. “The Russians, that culture, they really respect knowledge, they respect art,” he said. “You can feel that the intellectuals of that culture are tough. They have backbone. They really are thinking of their people.” “A culture like that, with that kind of intellectual, there’s hope,” he added. “China, the way China is, you hardly see people like that.”

In 1996, Wong wrote, Mr. Zhao began taking his camera to a shantytown in Beijing called the Petitioners’ Village, where people with grievances from all over the country camp out while trying to plead their case at the central petition office. “I remember quite clearly one of my middle-school teachers telling me that I was a stone with sharp, jagged edges, but that I would turn into a smooth river stone as I grew older,” Mr. Zhao said. “During the years while I was making this film, I felt like I was getting sharper and sharper instead.”

All the while, Mr. Zhao took on various cameraman jobs and put on exhibitions of his photography and art videos. He met Ai Weiwei---the the internationally known artist detained for nearly three months in 2011 during a broad crackdown on liberal intellectuals---when they both exhibited at a show in Finland. After the death of Ai Qing, Mr. Ai’s father and a famous poet, Mr. Zhao sat in the hearse with his friend as it drove past Tiananmen Square. In the early 2000s, when Mr. Zhao was at a low point, Mr. Ai lent him $750. Mr. Zhao called Mr. Ai when he believed officers were following him during the filming of “Petition”: “Weiwei, if one day I disappear, you have to come find me,” he said.

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Crime and Punishment poster
As of 2011 Zhao had made five independent documentaries including “Crime and Punishment”, “Petition” and “Together”. In 2011,Zhao said he was already planning for his next documentary to be a return to his old way of filmmaking. This movie would focus on a road trip through China with artists and intellectuals. It would be financed by foreign investors, he said, and not by the state.

Good Websites and Sources: dGenerate Films dGenerate Films is a New York-based distribution company that collects post-Sixth Generation independent Chinese cinema. The site Chinese Films http://www.chinesefilms.cn features news, film release dates, cast and crew details and plot outlines. There are also links to Chinese studios and the websites of film-makers, as well as independent English language reviews of movies. Chinese Movie Database dianying.com ; Internet Movie Database http://www.imdb.com/ ; Shelly Kraicer’s Chinese Cinema site chinesecinemas.org ; Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (MCLC) Resource List mclc.osu.edu ; iFilm Connections---Asia and Pacific asianfilms.org ; Love Asia Film loveasianfilm.com ; Journal of Chinese Cinemas intellectbooks.co.uk ; Wikipedia article on Chinese Cinema Wikipedia ; Senses of Cinema sensesofcinema.com ; Film in China (Chinese Government site) china.org.cn ; Directory of Interent Sources newton.uor.edu ; Chinese, Japanese, and Korean CDs and DVDs at Yes Asia yesasia.com and Zoom Movie zoommovie.com ; Wikipedia List of Chinese Filmmakers Wikipedia ; Chen Kaige at They Shoot Pictures Don’t They theyshootpictures.com ; Zhang Yimou, Ang Lee, See Separate Article Expert on Chinese film: Stanley Rosen, a professor at the University of Southern California. One of his books is “Speaking in Images: Interviews With Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers”.

Links in this Website: CHINESE FILM INDUSTRY Factsanddetails.com/China ; HONG KONG MOVIE INDUSTRY Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE FILM MAKERS AND THEIR FILMS Factsanddetails.com/China ; ZHANG YIMOU AND ANG LEE Factsanddetails.com/China ; HONG KONG FILM MAKERS AND THEIR FILMS Factsanddetails.com/China ; FOREIGN FILMS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE FILM ACTORS Factsanddetails.com/China ; JACKIE CHAN Factsanddetails.com/China ; BRUCE LEE AND JET LI Factsanddetails.com/China ;

Zhao Liang’s Petition

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scene from Petition
Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times that Zhao’s documentary film “Petition” “is considered by many of its viewers to be a fearless work of art. Shot over 12 years, it shows how the authorities muzzle and brutalize Chinese who, following an age-old tradition, travel to Beijing seeking redress for wrongdoing by local officials. The central story line of “Petition” follows the emotional toll that injustice takes on a woman and her daughter. In another story line, two petitioners are killed when they accidentally run into the path of an oncoming train while fleeing security officers. Fellow petitioners collect their body parts and call for the ouster of the Communist Party. “

An investigative documentary, “Petition: The Court of the Complainants” (2010) is about petitioners living on the fringes of China’s capital and their battles against a dysfunctional Chinese court system and their efforts to air their grievances against their local governments by traveling to Beijing where court cases demand much paperwork and they are made to wait for an indefinite period of time. The vast majority of petitioners are impoverished villagers from all over the country who travel far to the capital and typically end up waiting desperately in decrepit shantytowns for their cases to be settled. The film was special selection of the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

In a review of the film, Joe Bendel wrote on his blog jbspins.blogspot.com, “They are the dregs of society. Scorned and maligned, they live a dangerous existence in crude shantytowns as they pursue their quixotic quest. They seek redress from the Chinese government and for filmmaker Zhao Liang, these “petitioners” are his country’s greatest heroes. The product of over ten years spent with these marginalized justice seekers, Zhao’s Petition stands as arguably the most damning documentary record of contemporary China to reach American theaters since the initial rise of the Digital Generation of independent filmmakers. [Source: Joe Bendel, jbspins.blogspot.com]

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scene from Petition
“Throughout Petition it is crystal clear the Chinese government has institutionalized corruption and hopelessly stacked the deck against the petitioners. Those victimized by unfair rulings have limited options locally for appeal (from the same corrupt bodies), so their only recourse is through the Kafkaesque “Petition Offices” in Beijing. Never in the film do we see the bureaucrats there actually give a petitioner satisfaction. They do keep records though. In fact, the local authorities have a vested interest in maintaining low petition numbers. Hence, the presence of “retrievers,” hired thugs who physically assault petitioners as they approach the petition office.

Petition is definitely produced in the fly-on-the-wall, naturalistic style of Jia Zhangke and his “d-generate” followers, but there is no shortage of visceral drama here. Each petitioner we meet has an even greater story of injustice to tell. Perversely, it seems it is those who do not take bribes who usually find themselves prosecuted in China. Petitioners are arrested, beaten, and even die under mysterious circumstances. Yet, it is through Zhao’s central figures, Qi and her daughter Juan, that we experience the emotional drain of the petitioning process with uncomfortable immediacy. Frankly, even if you have seen a number of Chinese documentaries, this film will still profoundly disturb you.

Zhao deserves credit for both his significant investment of time and his fearlessness. Not surprisingly, filming is strictly prohibited in the Petition Offices, but that did not stop him from trying, often getting more than a slight jostle for his trouble. Indeed, Petition represents truly independent filmmaking. Petition is the cinematic equivalent of a smoking gun. It is impossible to maintain any Pollyannaish illusions of about the rule of law in China after watching the film. Yet, like Zhao, viewers will be struck be the petitioners’ indomitable drive for justice. May God protect them, because their government certainly won’t. A legitimately bold and honest film that needs to be seen.

Making and Promoting Petition


Petition Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times making Petitioners “was a Sisyphean mission, and a dangerous one: the system encourages security officers to abduct and punish the petitioners. Mr. Zhao shot 500 hours of footage, sometimes using hidden cameras inside the petition office. In the middle of the shooting, Mr. Zhao came to believe security agents were stalking him. The film was finished, and made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2009, but was immediately banned in China. Officers asked about Mr. Zhao in his hometown. He turned off his cellphone and fled to Tibet for three weeks. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, August 13, 2011]

Mr. Zhao said he never considered registering the film with the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, also known as Sarft, the main regulator and censor of films. “Petition” eventually got financing from European investors, and Mr. Zhao finished a two-hour edit in 2009 in Paris. It was screened at Cannes in May. Variety called it “an unblinking record of human suffering."

Chinese journalists reporting on Cannes for state news organizations shunned the film. “There were reporters who booked interviews with me before the screening, but they all ran away afterwards,” Mr. Zhao said. The Chinese authorities swung into action: police officers began looking for Mr. Zhao, and friends warned him to lie low, prompting the trip to Tibet. Meanwhile, censors blocked any mention of “Petition” on Douban, an arts social networking site. “I heard some rumblings,” Mr. Zhao said. “I was really pretty nervous.”

Screenings of “Petition” had to take place in secret, which frustrated him. “I want Chinese to see the film and have a better understanding of the environment in which they live,” he told an audience this March when “Petition” was screened at the Kubrick Café in Hong Kong.

Zhao Liang’s Crime and Punishment

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scene from
Crime and Punishment
Dan Edwards of dGenerate Films wrote: “Zhao’s film “Crime and Punishment” (Zui Yu Fa, 2007) provides an intimate snapshot of life inside a People’s Armed Police (PAP) station. Zhao told dGenerate Films he was only able to gain access to the station, located on the Chinese-Korean border in the remote northeast, because “these people are politically more naive and less politically savvy than their Beijing counterparts.” Zhao does not just exploit the officers’ naivety to expose their petty abuses of power however---the uniformed community provides a microcosm of the broader social structures informing the exercise of state power in contemporary China. [Source: Dan Edwards, dGenerate Films ]

“Crime and Punishment opens with the officers patiently folding their mattresses to form neat, identical piles on their beds. This extended sequence not only speaks of the conformist monotony of military life (the armed police are a paramilitary group organized similarly to the army), but also the thin line that separates those enforcing the law in China from those on the receiving end of the state’s coercive power. Like prisoners these men eat, work and sleep together in bare, whitewashed dormitories, kept at arm’s length from the townsfolk outside.”

“After this introductory sequence we follow the officers as they go about their duties, taking a call from a mentally disturbed man who claims he has found a body in his apartment, and raiding an illegal gambling den. After they arrest an alleged pickpocket in a market, we see the man questioned and casually beaten, first with kicks and punches, later with a leather strap. More surprising than the offhanded violence employed by the officers is their sheer incompetence. Although the film never spells out what differentiates the PAP from regular police, their military-style garb and an early scene in which a school principal praises their superior response time makes it clear this is an elite security unit. Despite their elevated status, as the film progresses it becomes embarrassingly evident these young men lack proper training or even an awareness of basic legalistic procedures.”

“The alleged pickpocket, for example, is obviously unable to understand most of what is said to him, and his speech is largely unintelligible. After a comically inept “interrogation” the officers simply resort to beating him up. “Without a confession we can’t bring him to trial,” an exasperated policeman explains to Zhao Liang as the suspect is dragged away. None of the police appear to register that the man is either deaf or mentally impaired, and hence incapable of responding to their questions. Eventually we hear one of the officers admit to his superior that they are unable to communicate with the suspect and have absolutely no evidence against him. He’s later released without charge.”

“Later we see the police bring in an elderly farmer caught collecting scrap without a permit, a classic example of the petty bureaucratic regulations that govern every aspect of life in China. The average person just ignores most of these rules most of the time, creating problems when the police decide to arbitrarily enforce them. The son’s farmer nicely sums up the attitude of many when the old man calls him from the station for assistance: “Fuck those fuckers!” the son explodes. “All they do is dick around” those motherfuckers!” Unfortunately for the old man, his son’s diatribe is loud enough for the officers to hear.” [Source: Dan Edwards, dGenerate Films ]


“After showing us the bumbling pettiness of much of the officers’ work, Crime and Punishment takes a more challenging turn when a group of young farmers are caught with an illegal load of timber. After the farmers are subject to the seemingly de rigueur beatings, a pair of officers accompanies one of them back to his village to collect evidence and photograph the stumps of illegally logged trees.”

“In the village the officers are confronted by the man’s extended family living in a single cramped farmhouse. The suspect’s living conditions clearly touch a chord, and as they climb the hill behind the village to photograph the cut-down trees, a strange camaraderie develops between the farmer and police. “I barely made 4,000 yuan this year [less than USD 600],” the farmer explains. “I work hard all year round to send my kid to school and we’re still eating up the family savings. The house isn’t big enough---you saw it. My dad lives in that little lean-to. An old man shouldn’t have to live like that?” The officers make sympathetic noises and say they’ll ask their captain to minimize the man’s punishment.”

“Having established this link between the officers and the peasants they police, Zhao moves to the PAP’s annual “demobilization,” which sees many of the young recruits standing down after two years on the job. Only a handful continue to an academy where they are made into PAP officers, while the rest return to civilian life in the towns and villages they came from. One of the young recruits becomes drunk after being told he will be discharged, crying bitterly as he lays bare the corruption of the system: “If I had the 50,000 yuan to pay the bribe I know I’d get into the academy,” he says to his colleague. “History is written by the victors. If you lose you’re just a loser. But if you win, even if you win by bribes or dirty tricks, you’re the winner, you’re the man.”

“Although the slim possibility of a lifetime of power and privilege is dangled in front of these young men, the majority are discarded by a system that perpetuates itself through an endless supply of eager recruits desperate to escape the impoverished conditions we’ve seen outside. There are no heroes or villains in this story, just young men caught up in a cycle that ultimately keeps most of them as powerless as the villagers they lord over.”

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Zhao in his Beijing studio
“From here Zhao cuts to the tethered dogs at the back of the station that we’ve seen fed throughout the film. As the smaller dog looks on, the larger animal is unceremoniously slaughtered with a knife to the heart. Only now does it become clear these animals are not guard dogs or even pets---they are raised by the police to be sacrificed for the pot. The scene is as unnerving as it is unexpected, and made all the more disturbing by the parallel with the young recruits’ fate.”

“His analogy complete, Zhao returns to the policemen’s mattresses folded in neat piles, now accompanied by the discarded insignia and caps of the demobilized recruits. As he rounds off the film’s neatly circular structure, Zhao leaves us with one final, tantalizingly open-ended image of peasants carrying household furniture across a snow-covered landscape. In the background a Christian Church dominates the scene---a sign of another power steadily growing in China’s countryside. A hint that farmers are increasingly turning to beliefs outside the morally bankrupt framework of the state. Zhao leaves us with a question rather than an answer, and an invitation to continue interrogating what we have seen after the end credits roll.”

Zhao Liang Pulls Out of the Melbourne Film Festival

Mr. Zhao left it to the film’s French producer to keep “Petition” on the festival circuit. Then, in July 2009, while in Bangkok, where his wife, who is Thai, and their two children live, he got a call from a friend, the well-known director Jia Zhangke. Mr. Jia said film bureau officials were demanding that the two of them withdraw their films from the Melbourne International Film Festival to boycott a documentary on Rebiya Kadeer, the Uighur businesswoman whom China blames for unrest in the Xinjiang region. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, August 13, 2011]

The two directors decided to pull out. “You’re a small figure, it’s scary, and you get stuck in a mess like this, in an international incident,” Mr. Zhao said. “Yeah, at the time I was pretty much, “Let’s think of me first.” “The bottom line, as he put it, was this: “You still need to work in this country.”

Mr. Zhao was surprised to find, when returning home shortly afterward, that official news organizations had made the two filmmakers into heroes in articles and newscasts. Mr. Zhao and “Petition” were actually mentioned by name. It was an upturn in Mr. Zhao’s relationship with the government, but not one he entirely welcomed. “I sort of felt like I had been used,” he said.

In October 2011, at an art exhibition opening in Beijing, Ai Weiwei challenged Mr. Zhao to defend his decision to boycott Melbourne. Mr. Ai recorded the encounter on video and posted it online. Mr. Zhao looked anguished at being ambushed by his friend. ‘so did you receive any financing afterwards from the state?” Mr. Ai asked. “I heard you did.” “Of course I didn’t, Ai Weiwei,” Mr. Zhao said.

Zhao Liang Becomes Friendly with the Chinese Government


Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times’since then, Mr. Zhao has transformed his relationship with the government. Late last year, Mr. Zhao completed “Together,” a film about discrimination against Chinese with H.I.V. and AIDS that was commissioned by the Ministry of Health. In March, Mr. Zhao dined in Hong Kong with ministry officials before walking the red carpet at a film festival. And in Beijing the next month, he accepted an award in a ceremony broadcast on state TV. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, August 13, 2011]

Mr. Zhao’s evolution from a filmmaker hounded by the government to one whom it celebrates offers a window into hard choices that face directors as they try to carve out space for self-expression in China’s authoritarian system. Like Mr. Zhao, many seek to balance their independent visions with their desires to live securely and win recognition. “When you’re working in China, there’s a gray area that you have to navigate well,” Mr. Zhao, 40, a slim man with a crew cut that is more soldier than auteur, said at his loft home in a Beijing arts district.

Yet Mr. Zhao’s compromises have damaged some of his closest friendships in China, including his one with Ai Weiwei. Mr. Zhao said that unlike Mr. Ai, he did not directly oppose the party, though his subjects, from oppressed peasants to drug-addicted rock musicians, live on China’s margins. “China no longer needs a revolution, the kind of total revolution that completely disrupts society,” he said. “The costs are too high.”

“Actually, in the party, there is conflict between two camps,” Mr. Zhao added, referring to friction between liberals and hard-liners. “As social intellectuals, we have to cooperate with one faction within the party to defeat the other faction.”

Together

Zhao made the film “Together”, documentary about the real roles of six HIV-positive people, to go with Gu Changwei's “Love for Life”---a film about AIDS with Zhang Ziyi and Aaron Kwok. Liu Wei wrote in the China Daily, “Gu invited the HIV-positive crew members to make the film more convincing, and to emphasize his team's anti-discriminatory attitude to those afflicted with the disease. Before filming, Gu's wife Jiang Wenli, who also stars in the film, suggested he make a documentary at the same time. Jiang has worked as an ambassador for AIDS prevention for eight years.” [Source: Liu Wei , China Daily, December 9, 2010]

“It was a tough task, however, for director Zhao Liang, who directed the documentary under Gu's supervision, to find six HIV-positive people who were willing to be filmed. Zhao started with online communities for the group. He talked to them and won their trust before making the invitation. Still, most of them refused him. "My mother would collapse if she saw me on the screen," one HIV-positive person told Zhao. "Nobody will talk to me if they know I am an HIV carrier," said another.”

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scene from Together

“Zhao talked to about 60 AIDS patients before six finally agreed to work on the set, or star in the film. Even so, half of them insisted their faces were covered. Among the three who did agree to have their faces shown was 12-year-old Hu Zetao, a student at Red Ribbon School, an institute for 16 children with AIDS in Shanxi province. Hu's mother died of AIDS when he was 4. He lives with his father and stepmother. When Gu's crew went to Hu's home, they found the family ate separately from the boy. After they finished the meal, he washed his bowl alone.”

“The scene was captured in “Together”. Gu told Hu to recall his experiences of being bullied by people and cry as loudly as he could. He immediately did so and could not stop for many minutes. Hu's teacher Liu Qian worked on the set, too, taking care of the child. Liu has been HIV-positive for 10 years, after an illegal blood transfusion. To her 16 students, the pretty woman is like a loving mother.”

“The middle-aged Xia, from Shanghai will not reveal how he got the disease. He was the actors' stand-in to test the lighting. Xia's biggest dream is to find a stable job in Shanghai. Presently, he cannot even find a place to get his hair cut, as barbers know he has the disease and refuse his custom. Xia had to leave the set prematurely because he became ill. Before he left he went to every crew and cast member to say goodbye, including Zhang and Kwok.”

“After three months of shooting, Hu Zetao's family now eat with him. Liu works at the school, taking care of her children, while Xia is still looking for a job. Living with HIV-positive people affected the crew. At the beginning of the documentary, one crew member was too scared to open his mouth when he knew he was sitting beside an HIV patient. At the film's end he said he now knows the importance of respect. Not all were equally courageous, though. Two crew members quit the film when they knew HIV carriers were working with them. Jiang Wenli and other actors tried to build trust between the team members. Zhang Ziyi's niece and Jiang's

Government Support of Together

Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times “Together,” which was submitted to censors, avoids mentioning the government’s long cover-up of H.I.V. and AIDS in China. And Mr. Zhao was asked by officials to make a number of cuts. One Chinese film expert, after watching “Together” in Hong Kong, said Mr. Zhao had “gone to the other side.” [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, August 13, 2011]

The movie has been shown in Chinese theaters and at a few prestigious international festivals, with official support. Mr. Zhao, like many artists who have chosen this path, sees his decision to work within the system in practical terms. “I think that a work has to have an audience,” he said. “The meaning of a piece of work has to be acknowledged by other people. It has to influence other people.”

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scene from Together

Karin Chien, founder of dGenerate Films, told the New York Times Mr. Zhao’s decision to make “Together” surprised her. But she said the move was similar to the way American directors sometimes jumped between independent and studio productions. “In any industry, there’s an appeal for someone who wants to effect change to work within the system and see if that creates more change,” she said. Zhu Rikun, an organizer of an independent film festival, said “Together” addressed “a very important subject,” but insisted that “a film that has anything to do with an official or with the government cannot have a good result, so it’s absolutely hopeless.”

Making Together

Before the controversy over the Melbourne film festival, Gu Changwei, a renowned filmmaker whom Mr. Zhao knew, contacted him with a proposal: Would he want to shoot a documentary on the set of “Love for Life,” a feature film directed by Mr. Gu about villagers afflicted by H.I.V. and AIDS? The story was from a banned book by Yan Lianke. Yet, the Health Ministry had agreed to support the movie, and it wanted a documentary that could be shown as a public service announcement. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, August 13, 2011]

For years, the Chinese government denied the scale of H.I.V. infection and covered up a scandal involving H.I.V.-infected blood banks, and the topic is still considered politically delicate. But in recent years, Health Ministry officials have been eager to show they are taking action to combat the disease, and the idea of Mr. Gu’s film and Mr. Zhao’s documentary appealed to them. With that backing, the project got a green light from the normally conservative film bureau. “I hesitated for a while, but eventually agreed to do it,” Mr. Zhao said.

If everything went well, then Mr. Zhao would finally make a film that would be widely seen in China. The Health Ministry was ready to throw in significant support: a department put up $77,000, half the budget.

“Together” went through rigorous vetting. Early versions were screened for officials from three agencies: first the Health Ministry, then the Central Propaganda Department, and finally the film bureau of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. “The Health Ministry looked at it and issued a letter to the other two, which means that the ministry backs this film,” Mr. Zhao said. “The propaganda department only cares about the general tone of the film and has no problem with it as long as it is not counterrevolutionary. The film bureau would not be so strict once the Health Ministry said to them in the letter that they had made this film for public service.”

Officials requested a few changes, Mr. Zhao said. One involved a scene where he interviewed a prostitute “the film could not say she was a sex worker. “I think that cut makes the film less effective,” he said. “Together” has some of Mr. Zhao’s trademark touches, notably interviews with H.I.V.-positive Chinese living on the margins. But there are also moments far from Mr. Zhao’s rigorous aesthetic “interviews with celebrity actors, for example, and the use of maudlin music. The film also fails to address how the government’s attempts to conceal outbreaks of H.I.V./AIDS contributed to the spread of the disease.

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Zhao Liang screen-shot

Promoting Together

“The movie exceeded our original expectations,” said Mao Qun’an, a Health Ministry spokesman. “Our health minister, after he saw the movie, said everyone in the ministry has to watch it.” In Beijing, the film began a trial run at an art house theater in December 2010. The Berlin International Film Festival agreed to screen it, There, Xinhua and CCTV reporters covered the film. “No Chinese reporters were at the screening of “Petition,” not one,” Mr. Zhao said of his experience at Cannes, “while this film attracted a lot of both Chinese and Western reporters.” [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, August 13, 2011]

There have been awkward moments on the festival circuit. At the Hong Kong International Film Festival in March, a Health Ministry official, Wang Xinlun, was asked a tough question by a viewer after the screening “had the Chinese government suppressed reporting of cases of H.I.V./AIDS? Ms. Wang said the Chinese government had been “very aggressive and methodical” in issuing reports. Mr. Zhao looked uncomfortable as she answered.

In May, after a big marketing campaign by the government on television and the Internet, “Together” opened in theaters in Beijing and Shanghai. Like most documentaries, it did not make much money. But Mr. Zhao said, “I make movies for people to watch, so I’m very happy that it was seen.”

Image Sources: dGenerate Films, YouTube

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2011


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