This week on dGenerate we will be featuring articles related to Zhao Liang’s acclaimed documentary Crime and Punishment to coincide with the screening of his films at Anthology Film Archives in New York City. Click here for more information on the screenings.
This article was originally published November 4, 2010.
Zhao Liang provided one of the most heartrending Chinese documentaries of recent times last year with Petition, an epic work about petitioners living on the fringes of China’s capital. It’s much rarer, however, to see stories about those enforcing the rules in the People’s Republic – the nature of Chinese state institutions means access is usually impossible. Which makes Zhao’s earlier film Crime and Punishment (Zui Yu Fa, 2007) all the more extraordinary, providing as it does an intimate snapshot of life inside a People’s Armed Police (PAP) station.
As Zhao explained in an interview earlier this year, he was only able to gain access to the station, located on the Chinese-Korean border in the remote northeast, because “these people are politically more naive and less politically savvy than their Beijing counterparts.” Zhao does not just exploit the officers’ naivety to expose their petty abuses of power however – the uniformed community provides a microcosm of the broader social structures informing the exercise of state power in contemporary China.