Though I Am Gone

Last updated
Though I Am Gone
Though I Am Gone Movie Poster.jpg
Traditional 我雖死去
Simplified 我虽死去
Mandarin Wǒ suī sǐ qù
Directed by Hu Jie
Written by Hu Jie
Cinematography Hu Jie
Edited by Hu Jie
Music byIn the Taihang Mountains
Distributed by dGenerate Films
Release date
Running time
68 minutes
Country China
Language Mandarin Chinese

Though I Am Gone (Wo sui si qu (我虽死去)) is a 2007 Chinese documentary film directed, written, and edited by Hu Jie. The film centers on Bian Zhongyun, [1] [2] the vice principal of the Girls Middle School attached to Beijing Normal University, [3] who was beaten to death by her students on August 5, 1966 during the Red August of Chinese Cultural Revolution. [4] The film is being distributed in North America by dGenerate Films. [5]



The mass student-led paramilitary social movement was initiated, mobilized and guided by Chairman Mao Zedong in 1966 and 1967. The purpose of launching the "Great Revolution" is to prevent the restoration of capitalism, to maintain the purity of the party, and to determine China's own path in the construction of a socialistic country.

University, high school and middle school students took the leading roles in the development of the "revisionist opposition". In a short period of time, the Red Guards that were established by students swarmed into the schools, wrestled with school staffs, and even some government locations were affected. The movement spread from within the party to the entire country and shortly after, the members of the society began to worry. [6]

Plot summary

The film is largely based on interviews the deceased woman's husband, Wang Jingyao. Jingyao documented the events leading up to and following his wife's death, including photos of her corpse, using a small 35mm stills camera. [3] He did not witness the process of his wife's death, but the helplessness and sadness that Wang Jingyao felt through the lens of his responses is evident. What the interviewer can do is to record the feelings and the experience of the interviewees truthfully.

The film shows the hidden perspectives, experiences and memories that are buried deeply within normal Chinese citizens during the Maoist periods and the Cultural Revolution through the use of personal and subjective records. The film also illustrates the scale of the terror that was unleashed by listing the 201 names on the screen at the end of film, in a four-minute incomplete roll call of the teachers that were killed in Beijing, China during the August 1966 Cultural Revolution. The list of names act as a reminder to the audience about the wrongful murderous killings by the Red Guards that was encouraged and permitted by Mao during the movement and also to pay respect to those who have tragically died in the violent revolution. [3]


In an interview with director Hu Jie, the filmmaker stated that it "took a year of negotiations and a viewing of the Lin Zhao film (referring to Hu's 2004 film Searching for Lin Zhao's Soul) to persuade Bian’s aging husband to tell his story and show his photographs for the first time". [7] The film uses a combination of black and white and colour shots. Through the interviewers' narration and perspective, the film gradually uncovers the real events that occurred in the Cultural Revolution at that time. The cinematography technique also objectively reveals the emotions of the autobiographical nature through the narrator's perspective and vision.


The title of the film is derived from a poem in Doctor Zhivago (1957) that was written by the Russian author, Boris Pasternak (1890 - 1960). [8] The last two excepts of Gethsemane's Garden from The Poems of Doctor Zhivago as translated by Christopher Barns:

To suffer and descend into the grave.

And from the grave on the third day I'll rise.
Then, like a fleet of barges down the stream,
The centuries will float forth from the night

And make their way before my judgment seat. [9]



承受我的审判 [8]


Ban in China

The film is banned in China, where the Communist Party reacted sensitively to the film because "many of the former members of the Red Guard who attended Bian's middle school were members of the families of high-ranking officials that are still revered today." [1]

Critical reception

"One of the Cultural Revolution's most shocking and perplexing cases. We can only imagine how difficult it is for Hu to produce his films; only a committed person who takes what he does as a 'calling' can persist." — Dr. Weili Yu, Yale University, in the journal Asian Educational Media Service [10]

"Though none of his works have been publicly shown in China, Hu Jie is one of his country's most noteworthy filmmakers." — The New York Review of Books [10]

"A profoundly moving memorial to the victims of Mao's senseless political violence." — ReelTime Arts [10]

"Packs a powerful punch in just over an hour...Director Hue Jie exploys a collage-like approach, interspersing archival footage and propaganda songs with present day interviews with Wang and other survivors of this tragic period of history." — Twitch Film [10]

"Though I Am Gone challenges the authorities; the mainland may have sanctioned other films which broach the so-called '10 years of catastrophe' but Hu's film is still banned." — South China Morning Post [10]

"Hu Jie's body of work puts a human face on some of the worst horrors of the Communist Party's recent history." — Public Radio International [10]

Screenings and awards [5]

Chinese Documentary Film FestivalChampion [11] 2008
Melbourne International Film Festival Official Selection [12] 2012

Cancellation of YunFest

Hu Jie's film was actually to be screened at YunFest, "a documentary festival held by the Academy of Social Sciences in south-western Yunnan Province", in 2007 but was promptly "cancelled by the authorities at the last minute". [13]

Further reading

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cultural Revolution</span> 1966–1976 Maoist sociopolitical movement in China

The Cultural Revolution, formally known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a sociopolitical movement in the People's Republic of China (PRC) launched by Mao Zedong in 1966, and lasting until his death in 1976. Its stated goal was to preserve Chinese communism by purging remnants of capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society, and to re-impose Mao Zedong Thought as the dominant ideology in the PRC. The Revolution marked the return of Mao, who was Chairman of the Communist Party of China (CPC), to the central position of power after a period of less radical leadership to recover from the failures of the Great Leap Forward, which caused the Great Chinese Famine (1959–1961). However, the Revolution failed to achieve its main goals.

René Viénet is a French sinologist who is famous as a situationist writer and filmmaker. Viénet used the situationist technique of détournement — the diversion of already existing cultural elements to new subversive purposes.

Bombard The Headquarters – My Big-Character Poster was a short document written by Chairman Mao Zedong on August 5, 1966, during the 11th Plenary Session of the 8th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, and published in the Communist Party's official newspaper People's Daily a year later, on August 5, 1967.

<i>From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China</i> 1979 American film

From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China is a 1979 documentary film about Western culture breaking into China produced and directed by Murray Lerner. It portrays the famous violinist and music teacher Isaac Stern as the first American musician to collaborate with the China Central Symphony Society.

Zhang Jie was a Chinese novelist and short-story writer. In the meanwhile, she was also the co-author of a biography of the film director Wu Zuguang in 1986. She worked on writing different kinds of books for or with young protagonists, these types of works are included in junior and senior high school textbooks in China. She is one of China's first contributors to feminist fiction. In Zhang Jie's works, she mainly worked on the themes of "people" and "love", she often emphasizes the emotions and relationships between mother and daughter, which was formed mainly by early poverty and the fierce protection of her mother. The Person Who loved me the most on earth is gone is the long story, which is a long self-statement recounting the last eighty days and nights of her mother's life, who died in 1991. She remembered her mother's submission, dependence and forbearance to her, and her consideration, complaint and regret to her mother. This novel is a simple and unpretentious expression of the love between mother and daughter.

<i>Three Kingdoms</i> (TV series) 2010 Chinese historical series

Three Kingdoms is a 2010 Chinese television series based on the events in the late Eastern Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms period. The plot is adapted from the 14th century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms and other stories about the Three Kingdoms period. Directed by Gao Xixi, the series had a budget of over 160 million RMB and took five years of pre-production work. Shooting of the series commenced in October 2008, and it was released in China in May 2010.

<i>The East Is Red</i> (1965 film) 1965 film by Wang Ping

The East Is Red, also known as The East Is Red: A Song and Dance Epic, is a 1965 Chinese film directed by Wang Ping, based on an opera production. It is an abridged history of the Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under the leadership of Mao Zedong, from the beginnings of the May Fourth Movement, to the Civil War against the Nationalist Party, and to the victory of the Communists and the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The film is commercially available today on both CD and video, as well as online with English subtitles.

Feudal fascism, also revolutionary-feudal totalitarianism, were official terms used by the post-Mao Zedong Chinese Communist Party to designate the ideology and rule of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four during the Cultural Revolution. The chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Ye Jianying, in 1979 described Mao Zedong's reign as a “feudal-fascist dictatorship” due to his revolutionary terror based cult of personality, nationalism and authoritarianism despite superficially socialist policies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Feng Congde</span>

Feng Congde is a Chinese dissident and Republic of China Restoration activist. He came into prominence during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 as a student leader from Peking University, which placed him onto the Chinese government's 21 Most Wanted list. He spent 10 months hiding in various locations in mainland China, until he was smuggled out to Hong Kong on a shipping vessel.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bian Zhongyun</span>

Bian Zhongyun was a deputy principal at the Experimental High School Attached to Beijing Normal University, in Beijing, China. She was attracted to the Chinese Communist Party during the Sino-Japanese War and joined the party in 1941, and before working for the high school in Beijing, she worked at an editor for the People's Daily then located in rural Hebei.

Consort Tang was a consort of Liu Bian, the 13th and penultimate emperor of the Eastern Han dynasty of ancient China.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Song Binbin</span>

Song Binbin, also known as Song Yaowu, was a senior leader in the Chinese Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. She is known for allegedly beating her deputy principal Bian Zhongyun to death with wooden sticks, along with other students.

Hu Jie is a Chinese filmmaker and artist known for the films Searching for Lin Zhao's Soul (2004), Though I Am Gone (2007), and Spark (2013), which constitute a "trilogy of documentaries about Maoist China". Spark received the top prize at the 2014 Taiwan Independent Documentary Festival.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Feng Yidai</span>

Feng Yidai was a Chinese author, editor, and translator. Born in Hangzhou, he studied in Shanghai and thereafter began an illustrious career in publishing and editing. He was denounced as a "rightist" during Mao Zedong's Anti-Rightist Campaign. He was politically rehabilitated after the Cultural Revolution and resumed his literary career. He married the actress and writer Huang Zongying in 1993. A few years before his death, he published his diaries and confessed his secret role as a government spy during the Anti-Rightist Campaign.

Xu Xing, is a Chinese writer, cultural scholar and independent documentary director from Beijing.

The Guangxi Massacre, or Guangxi Cultural Revolution Massacre, was a series of events involving lynching and direct massacre in Guangxi during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). The official record shows an estimated death toll from 100,000 to 150,000. Methods of slaughter included beheading, beating, live burial, stoning, drowning, boiling and disemboweling. In certain areas including Wuxuan County and Wuming District, massive human cannibalism occurred even though no famine existed. According to public records available, at least 137 people—perhaps hundreds more—were eaten by others and at least thousands of people participated in the cannibalism. Other researchers have pointed out that 421 victims who could be identified by name were eaten, and there were reports of cannibalism across dozens of counties in Guangxi.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Red August</span> Series of massacres in Beijing during August 1966; part of the Cultural Revolution

The Red August, originally meaning August 1966 of the Cultural Revolution, is a term used to indicate a series of massacres in Beijing which mainly took place during the period. According to the official statistics in 1980, from August to September in 1966, a total of 1,772 people—including teachers and principals of many schools—were killed in Beijing by Red Guards; in addition, 33,695 homes were ransacked and 85,196 families were forced to leave the city. The killing by the Red Guards also made an impact on several rural districts of Beijing, causing the "Daxing Massacre", for example, during which 325 people were killed from August 27 to September 1 in Daxing District of Beijing. The oldest killed during the Daxing Massacre was 80 years old, while the youngest was only 38 days old; 22 families were wiped out. According to official statistics published on 7 November 1985, the number of beatings and deaths during the Red August was 10,275.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zhao Jianmin Spy Case</span>

The Zhao Jianmin Spy Case, or Zhao Jianmin Wrong Case, was a major fabricated spy case in Yunnan province during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, with more than 1.387 million people implicated and persecuted, which accounted for 6% of the total population in Yunnan at the time. From 1968–1969, more than 17,000 people died in a massacre while 61,000 people were crippled for life; in Kunming alone, 1,473 people were killed and 9,661 people were left disabled as a result.

The Daxing Massacre, also known as the Daxing Incident (大兴事件), was part of the Red August massacre in Beijing during the early Cultural Revolution. It took place in Daxing District of Beijing from August 27 to 31, primarily targeting members of the Five Black Categories. In total, 325 people were killed in the massacre by September 1, 1966; the oldest killed was 80 years old, while the youngest was only 38 days old; 22 families were wiped out.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Boluan Fanzheng</span> 1977-to-early-1980s transition period in China

Boluan Fanzheng or Poluan Fancheng, was a period in the history of People's Republic of China during which Deng Xiaoping, then paramount leader of China, led a far-reaching program attempting to correct the mistakes of the Cultural Revolution launched by Mao Zedong. The program gradually dismantled the Maoist policies associated with the Cultural Revolution, rehabilitated millions of victims who were persecuted during the Revolution, initiated various sociopolitical reforms, and brought the country back to order in a systematic way. The Boluan Fanzheng period is regarded as an important transition period in China's history, which served as the bedrock of the historic Reform and Opening-up program starting on December 18, 1978.


  1. 1 2 Andreas Lorenz The Chinese Cultural Revolution; Remembering Mao's Victims 05/15/2007 Spiegel
  2. MATT (2010-09-16). "Unabhängige Blicke". Die Tageszeitung: taz (in German). p. 23. ISSN   0931-9085 . Retrieved 2019-07-30.
  3. 1 2 3 Edwards, Dan (2015). Independent Chinese Documentary: Alternative Visions, Alternative Publics. doi:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748695621.001.0001. ISBN   9780748695621.
  4. Ye, Weili (October 17, 2011). "AEMS: Publications". Retrieved 2021-06-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. 1 2 "THOUGH I AM GONE". dGenerate Films. Retrieved 2021-06-14.
  6. 双碧, 苏 (2005). ""文化大革命"的导火线 ———《评新编历史剧<海瑞罢官>》出笼前后".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. Edwards, Dan. "Street Level Visions: China's Digital Documentary Movement – Senses of Cinema" . Retrieved 2021-06-14.
  8. 1 2 "我虽死去". Jie Hu. 2019-05-12. Retrieved 2020-06-14.
  9. "The Poems of Doctor Zhivago". Toronto Slavic Quarterly . Retrieved 2020-06-14.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Though I am Gone: (Wo Sui Si Qu)". ICARUS Films. 2020-05-27. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  11. "Chinese Documentary Festival 2008". Visible Record. 2008-02-16. Retrieved 2021-06-14.
  12. "MIFF Archive". MIFF 2021. Retrieved 2021-06-14.
  13. Jie, Hu; Bandurski, David (May 2008). "Memory Loss". Index on Censorship (published May 1, 2008). 37 (2): 68–73. doi: 10.1080/03064220802081662 . ISSN   0306-4220.