Directed by Hu Jie 2014, 101 min, digital. In Mandarin with English subtitles.
Probably China’s most important unofficial historian-filmmaker, Hu Jie documents with his camera episodes that Chinese official history, for now, ignores. Spark was an underground magazine published in 1960 by four young intellectuals who wanted to expose the devastating famine caused by Mao’s Great Leap Forward, a horrendous period of national suffering that is still unmentioned in China’s history textbooks today. This is filmmaking as urgent historical investigation: with a shoestring budget Hu combines years of research, and a knack for getting people to talk without fear about the most taboo subjects in China’s recent past. His alternative oral history approach knits together courageous and frequently moving interviews with the magazine’s surviving editor, supporters, and readers, who were ready to sacrifice themselves to alert their countrymen to unprecedented disaster.
“The beauty of independent cinema lies in its independence. The opposite of this independence is a media controlled by a propaganda mechanism under centralized command. Independence, exploration, and discovery grant you freedom.” – Hu Jie
About Cinema On The Edge
A film series unlike any other, “Cinema on the Edge: Best of Beijing Independent Film 2012-2014” celebrates the daring spirit and creative innovation of independent filmmakers and festival organizers in mainland China.
This film series features 18 programs of outstanding recent Chinese independent cinema, showcasing the work of such acclaimed filmmakers as Ai Weiwei, Li Luo, Hu Jie, Zou Xueping and Yang Mingming. The series is organized and curated by three of Chinese independent cinema’s most committed supporters: producer and distributor Karin Chien, critic and curator Shelly Kraicer, and filmmaker and anthropologist J.P. Sniadecki. Seven of NYC’s most revered film and cultural institutions will present these works: Anthology Film Archives, Made in NY Media Center by IFP, Asia Society, Maysles Cinematheque, Museum of Chinese in America, Weatherhead East Asian Institute, and UnionDocs.
About the presenter
Andrew J. Nathan is Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. His teaching and research interests include Chinese politics and foreign policy, the comparative study of political participation and political culture, and human rights. Nathan has served at Columbia as chair of the Department of Political Science, 2003-2006, chair of the Executive Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, 2002- 2003, and director of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, 1991-1995. He is currently chair of the Morningside Institutional Review Board (IRB). Off campus, he is a member of the boards of Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy, and Human Rights in China, and a member of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch, Asia. He is the regular Asia and Pacific book reviewer for Foreign Affairs.