He said, “Don’t you think Hu Jia is a little too much? I watched his documentary online. He was…often inviting troubles himself.”
I asked if he meant Hu Jia had acted headstrong in front of those who had followed him. He nodded yes. “There were good things that had happened to this country and under this government. It’s not right for him to ignore the positives and lash out only the negatives.”
I was taken aback by his confident commentary. I had known him before only as a quiet filmmaker who had graduated from the
“So you think it’s alright to send him to jail even if he had said something incorrect?” I protested out of reflex.
“He will come out of prison faring much better than before,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“Surely he will get a visa and financial support to go to
His confident reduction of human motives to such vulgar calculations sent chills to my body. How could he, an out-of-mainstream filmmaker with the obligatory long hair and pensive smile, be brainwashed to such extent? What’s the hope for
I remember a writing seminar I had been to two months ago. Two well-known Chinese writers were asked if their writing had any political intonation. Both answered no. Both said that they only cared for arts, not politics.
I could understand them, my filmmaker friend, and my own silent self. There is an invisible gag in the air. It’s better to get used to its prevailing nonexistence.
There was a lull in our conversation. My lips felt dry. I said you sounded very interested in political matters. He said of course, my partners and I are probably “noted” by the Big Brother as well. He described a meeting with some kind old comrades at a certain authoritative bureau; the comrades did not exactly forbid them from making independent films, but warned them against making political ones.
“Of course we won’t touch politics,” he said. “We just want to make films.”
Yeah yeah yeah, repetitive artsy “Chinese” films about AIDS, or poverty, or migrants, or urban alienation that aim for some big award at some Western film festival.
Then he asked for my opinion on a film he wants to make. He said he was really troubled by the bipolarized reporting and emotions on the
“Now my friends and I don’t know who to trust anymore,” he exclaimed quietly.
He wanted to make a film, about a Chinese guy confused by the issues of
“You know how extreme people could get on these issues?” he looked ahead in the air. “Friends would argue so violently over dinner tables that even long-time friendships are difficult to maintain. Some love the West and would argue for the West despite everything. Others would take to arms to revenge the humiliation over the torch relay. You know the government had to police the university campuses to prevent agitated students from teaming up to smash the Carrefours and the KFCs? You don’t believe me? People are ready for violence, and extremism. The society is getting increasingly unsettled. Something is ready to explode. I wouldn’t be shocked to find Al-Qaeda-like Chinese suicide bombers in the next few years.”
So he would like my more Westernized opinion on what kind of portrayal of this Chinese guy’s confusion would be receptive to an Western audience. The film would be banned in
I was even more shocked than before—for a non-political filmmaker, how could he consider such a topic innocuously nonpolitical? I said you are crazy to be even thinking about embarking on this. The West…at least the Western media, likely have little room for your confusions and your efforts to sort them out. They have their minds set already.
The only way I could see your film finding an audience, I suggested, is to focus on the main character’s confusion.
“That’s easy,” he said, “I’m still confused as hell.”
Then he added, “but don’t they, the West, understand the severity of the problem?
“You are crazy!” I took my turn to exclaim. “You will be arrested by the police the day the film becomes public. Better to show the main character getting addicted to a computer game of suicide bombers in the end.”
He liked my idea. We sipped our tea and shifted the converation to more pleasant topics: the Korean Pentecostal missionaries are converting Beijingers in house churches like wild fire; his business is getting very well; people need religion; people need a reason to believe in something…
We parted promising to get together for dinner and drinks in the near future. And I left feeling optimistic again about everything