June Four at Twenty-Five: Three Films

Yellow Earth

Yellow Earth


The Australian Centre on China in the World (CIW), at the Australian National University, announces a special film event commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the protest movement at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and the nationwide crackdown from 4 June, 1989. All screenings are free, and will be followed by a short discussion.

Tuesday, 3 June, 5:30pm-7:30pm – – Yellow Earth 黄土地
Directed by Chen Kaige 陈凯歌, 1984, 89 minutes Mandarin Chinese with English subtitles
In 1939, Gu Qing, a propaganda cadre in the Eighth Route Army, came to a poor village on the Yellow Earth Plateau to collect folk songs. There he meets Cui Qiao, a young girl due to enter an arranged marriage. Gu’s tales of an equal Communist society inspire Cui, who asks him to take her to Yan’an to join the army. Gu promises to return to fetch her after getting permission from the Army. But when he fails to return, Cui decides to cross the Yellow River to seek out the army herself. Marking the emergence of the Chinese New Wave in 1985, Yellow Earth is emblematic of the passions and discontents of China’s 1980s. Its bold and elegiac cinematography, set in China’s sparse and harsh hinterland, its reinvigoration of the Plateau’s rich musical traditions, and its mournful political critique of the Party’s unfulfilled promises, has made it a masterpiece of contemporary cinema.

Wednesday, 4 June, 5:30pm-9:00pm  – – The Gate of Heavenly Peace 天安门
Directed by Carma Hinton and Richard Gordon; written by Geremie Barmé and John Crowley, 1995, 180 minutes In Mandarin Chinese and English, with English subtitles
A three-hour documentary film about the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square that culminated in the violent government massacre on 3-4 June, The Gate of Heavenly Peace interweaves archival footage and contemporary interviews to examine how the protest movement was shaped by the complex political history of China’s twentieth century. The wide range of people interviewed by the filmmakers, including students, intellectuals, workers and government officials, offers a multi-perspectival oral history of the event’s politics and experiences, and provides an insightful analysis of the movement’s promise and legacy. Among those interviewed are public intellectuals Liu Xiaobo and Dai Qing, student leaders Wang Dan, Wuer Kaixi, Chai Ling, and Feng Congde, and workers’ leader Han Dongfang. Now a key reference work on the subject, this is a must-see for those interested in China’s public life, political history and popular movements.

Thursday, 5 June, 5:30pm-7:30pm – – Sunless Days 沒有太陽的日子
Directed by Shu Kei 舒琪 (a.k.a Kenneth Ip 葉健行), 1990, 90 mins In Cantonese & Mandarin Chinese, with English subtitles
Unwilling to make the sort of news reportage that was being continuously aired following June 4, in Sunless Days, director Shu Kei turns to his family and friends, producing a very personal document of what the Tiananmen Massacre means, particularly from the perspective of Hong Kong, with the 1997 handover looming. Speaking to Chinese both in Hong Kong and overseas, in Australia and Canada for example, this filmic essay intermingles poetic reflection with documentary interviews and archival news footage, to give sensitive, frank and insightful account of the greater impact of Beijing’s crackdown on the protest movement beyond the1989 borders of the People’s Republic, to a global Chinese community. Winner of the OCIC Award at the 1990 Berlin Film Festival.

This monthly film series offers a fresh window on social realities, cultural transformations and creative imaginings from across Asia and the Pacific, through documentary and feature films made by some of the most entertaining, insightful and uncompromising filmmakers in our region. Screenings are followed by a short discussion, led by relevant local and invited scholars and filmmakers.

Sponsored and hosted by the Australian Centre on China in the World, the series is programmed by a team with diverse expertise in visual culture, dramatic arts, independent cinema and popular culture in Asia and the Pacific.

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More information on the Asia & the Pacific Screens film series: