Though I Am Gone

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Though I Am Gone
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
2007
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]

Contents

Background

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]

Production

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.

Title

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]

我虽死去

但三日之后就要复活
仿佛那水流急湍
世世代代将走出黑暗

承受我的审判 [8]

Reception

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]

FestivalAwardYear
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

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The Cultural Revolution, formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a sociopolitical movement in China from 1966 until Mao Zedong's death in 1976. Launched by Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and founder of the People's Republic of China (PRC), 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 Mao's return to the central position of power in China after a period of less radical leadership to recover from the failures of the Great Leap Forward, which caused the Great Chinese Famine only five years prior.

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Bian Zhongyun

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. She became the first victim of the Cultural Revolution in 1966 during Beijing's "Red August", when she was beaten to death with wooden sticks by a group of students, who were led by Song Binbin. Prior to her death, Bian had been the party leader at the school, but was denounced as a "counter-revolutionary revisionist" by Song's group of Red Guards.

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

Song Binbin

Song Binbin, also known as Song Yaowu, was a senior leader in the Chinese Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. She is known for 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.

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Red August

The Red August, originally meaning August 1966 of the Cultural Revolution, is also 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. Scholars have also pointed out that, according to the official statistics in 1985, the actual death toll during the Red August was over 10,000.

Zhao Jianmin Spy Case

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 massacre while 61,000 people were crippled for life; in Kunming alone, 1,473 people were killed and 9,661 people were disabled.

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.

Boluan Fanzheng Transition period in modern Chinese history

Boluan Fanzheng or Poluan Fancheng, literally meaning "eliminating chaos and returning to normal", 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.

References

  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". www.aems.illinois.edu. Retrieved 2021-06-14.
  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".
  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.