Posts Tagged ‘tangshan’

Shelly on Film: Tremors and Traumas: Notes on Three Chinese Earthquake Movies

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

By Shelly Kraicer

Buried (dir. Wang Libo)

It’s been earthquake movie season in China ever since the terrible Wenchuan earthquake that struck Sichuan province on May 12th 2008. I’ve seen fourteen of these films since then — documentaries, features, and shorts, including titles like May Day, Don’t Cry Mom, Who Killed Our Children, and Quake de Love — and I’ve by no means done a systematic search. This doesn’t include the films that mention the earthquake in passing: the number would then increase three- or four-fold.

What makes this subject so essential for Chinese filmmakers to grapple with? The Sichuan earthquake is a disaster seared into the consciousness of most people living in China, where national mass media gave saturation coverage to the earthquake and its aftermath. The subject naturally lends itself both to propaganda-style tales of heroic rescure and moral uplift, and equally to outsider critiques of government policies that made the destruction worse. It seems that there is an earthquake for every political colouring, and every possible calibration of mass media coverage (and exploitation).

I’d like to look a bit more closely at a couple of films from what we might call opposite ends of the spectrum, and one right in the middle. On one end is Wang Libo’s Buried (Yanmai), an independent documentary from 2009. Situated at the other end of is Feng Xiaogang’s massive blockbuster Aftershock (Tangshan da dizhen, 2010), the most popular Chinese film in history, measured by the box office. And right in the middle is 1428, Du Haibin’s documentary from 2009.

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