Digressions on the photographic agony #2

I Wish I Knew - Jia Zhangke, 2010, HD video

My father, Wang Xiaohe, joined the Communist Party on May 4th, 1942. The Party ordered him to go to Yangshupu Electric Power Plant, where, in 1948, everything went wrong for the KMT [Chinese Nationalist Party]. There was a surge in protests by students and workers, and my father was caught up in all that. The enemy was watching him closely, and eventually they charged him with destroying a power generator. They arrested him on April 21st, and he was given a death sentence scheduled for September 27th. I had an elder sister, born 17 months before me (I was born on October 24th, 1948) and on that day, September 27th, my mother was pregnant with me. Despite being heavily pregnant, she picked up my sister and went to the prison gate with our Grandma. Many people came along in support, and the traffic around Tilanqiao Prison was clogged up all day. Some policemen whipped my mother with a belt, trying to drive her away. She didn't leave, of course.

After all that, the Tilanqiao Prison put up a notice: it said they hadn't got the execution order, so it wouldn't be carried out that day. My father was being held in Yangshupu. They brought him to Tilanqiao Prison, which had a special court to sentence people in secret. Just for the convenience of the KMT. They convicted and sentenced my father. He was executed in Tilanqiao Prison around 10 o'clock on the morning of September 30th. Put to death. On that day, a journalist from Ta Kung Pao in Hong Kong conducted interviews. He took many pictures. Lots of people took photos when my father was brought outside the prison after the closed court session. I know my father from those pictures. He died three weeks before I was born, so I never met him. I knew him only from those pictures. I miss him so much, though. I never knew my father's love.

--Wang Peimin, trans. Tony Rayns.

In 1972, during the Cultural Revolution, my boss gave me an assignment. A very famous European director, Michelangelo Antonioni, was coming here to make a film about China. I heard that he'd been invited by Premier Zhou Enlai, so it was up to us to meet all his needs. On the second day of filming, we were shooting on Nanjing Road. It struck me that he was filming a lot of bad things, things that reflected our backwardness. It seemed totally unfair. When it kept happening, I made a protest: I said: “If you keep on like this, I'll have to stop you.” He said: “Everything I've seen is very good! What do you think is not good?” He thought everything was fine. The way I saw it, things were far from fine: “We have very good things, but you just shoot such backward stuff.” Our standards were so different.

Two years later, out of the blue, our work unit's military rep arrested me. He took me from home to the TV station, and spelled it out: Antonioni's movie, China. The leaders of the Cultural Revolution, such as Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan and so on, had watched the film and advised it was anti-China, anti-communist, an anti-people poisonous weed! I later heard that the Gang of Four [Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan & Wang Hongwen] were using the case as a pretext to attack Premier Zhou. At one point, we came here to attend a criticism meeting. We went to all the places where he'd filmed, such as Shanghai Oil Refinery, and everywhere we went we were criticized and denounced. I was called a small traitor, a spy, a counter-revolutionary! And so on. At that time, I was just thirty years old. How could I have been so politically mature? Even now I have no clear idea about exactly what Antonioni had shot. I've never seen the film. To this day, I don't know exactly what's in it.

--Zhu Qiansheng, trans. Tony Rayns.

Chung Kuo, Cina, 1972 / I Wish I Knew, 2010

1 comment:

Just Another Film Buff said...

Love this film. These are two sections that were probably the most striking in the whole film.