Excavating Chinese History
On June 30, the independent New York film distributor Icarus Films is releasing a documentary on the Chinese filmmaker Hu Jie, as well as releasing one of his classic documentaries, "Spark." In this piece for The New York Times, I introduce readers to Hu, and explain why these films matter.
To me, Hu is one of China's most significant filmmakers, even if his style is extremely rough and almost careless. In more than 30 documentary films, he has excavated some of the most sensitive subjects in modern Chinese history, especially the Anti-Rightist Campaign, the Great Famine of 1958-61, and the Cultural Revolution.
I interviewed him in 2015 for The New York Review of Books Daily blog, which you can read here, and it was great to reconnect with him, even if only by phone. He's still at work on new films but spends more and more of his time on art--his original calling.
For those who want to read more about Hu, I can suggest the first three chapters of Philip Pan's Out of Mao's Shadow, which is an extended profile of Hu and describes how he came to leave the army and become an artist, then a filmmaker.