Posts Tagged ‘transition period’

Review: The Transition Period shows the true power center of Chinese government

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

"The Transition Period" shows the inner workings of local politics in China

U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke’s recent arrival in Beijing generated intense discussions among Chinese nationals about how Chinese civil servants compare unfavorably to their American counterparts. As reported in a September 20th article in The Wall Street Journal’s blog “China Real Time Report,” the central government and its affiliated media bodies such as the Guangming Daily and the Xinhua News Agency tried to cast aspersions over the political motives behind the U.S. government’s choice of a Chinese-American ambassador. But Chinese online netizens focused on something entirely different. After seeing photos of Locke buying his own coffee and carrying his own bags, and learning that he flew coach to China, Chinese web commentators assailed their civil servants for squandering taxpayers’ money on ridiculously extravagant meals, cars, and the like, and for shirking physical work and other chores that they consider to be below their dignity.

Zhou Hao’s 2011 documentary The Transition Period, which will be playing next Monday in Chicago’s Doc Films series on Chinese independent cinema, looks at the working life of one typical Chinese civil servant by the name of Guo Yongchang before his transfer to a new post within the Chinese government. Shot over the last three months of Guo working as the party secretary of the Committee of the Communist Party of Gushi County in Xinyang Municipality of Henan Province, this documentary presents different facets of Guo’s work as a medium- to low-level Chinese civil servant in a leading position. This article aims at laying out some groundwork in China’s political system and its political environment for first-time viewers of the documentary, as sometimes the stories in the documentary are more complicated than their presentations. (Spoilers may follow.)

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Chinese Directors Win at HK Documentary Fest, Say They Enjoy Freedom

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

By Kevin Lee

Zhou Hao presents his film "The Transition Period" at the China Documentary Festival in Hong Kong (photo: Associated Press)

The 2011 Chinese Documentary Festival in Hong Kong concluded earlier this month with awards given to The Transition Period by Zhou Hao and One Day in May by Ma Zhandong. The Transition Period will be distributed later this year by dGenerate, which already distributes one of Zhou’s earlier films, Using.

In a report on the festival for the Associated Press, Min Lee describes The Transition Period as “a rare, fascinating look at how the Chinese government operates:”

Guo Yongchang, who is currently serving a seven-year prison term for accepting bribes of 2 million Chinese yuan ($310,000), is shown discussing how to split tax revenue with lower-level officials, meeting with constituents as well as smearing birthday cake onto the face of an American businessman and wining and dining with Taiwanese businessmen in another drunken episode. A secretly recorded sound section shows Guo ordering an aide to return certain bribes.

Zhou said he met Guo at a dinner and the former official quickly agreed to be filmed. He said he got full access – although avoided shooting Guo’s family life. Guo has seen the documentary – minus the secretly taped section – and didn’t object, Zhou said.

When asked if he worried if such a film could cause trouble for him with the authorities, Zhou responded: “my understanding is that you can basically film everything you want to film. The key question is whether you want to shoot something. If you want to shoot something, you can definitely do it.”

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Who’s Using Who? Zhou Hao’s Hall of Mirrors

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

By Dan Edwards

Using (dir. Zhou Hao)

Southern Metropolis Daily has a proud reputation as one of the very few newspapers in mainland China with real teeth, so it’s perhaps not surprising the paper’s ranks have also produced such sharp-eyed documentarian as Zhou Hao. Zhou’s stories focus on minor, charismatic players in contemporary Chinese society, honing in on small stories to make broader points about various social milieux, from the world of heroin addition in Using (2008) to small town politics in The Transition Period (2009). More intriguingly, Zhou’s films also highlight the uncertain, often fraught relationship between documentary makers and their subjects.

Using

Using opens among a group of emaciated junkies living under a highway overpass, a concrete island home in a sea of traffic. The casual presence of death is immediately apparent as we see Ah Long, a man in his 30s, chatting on the phone with a family member of an ailing addict. “He won’t last long,” Ah Long states bluntly. “I’m saying you should come to see him… You can come and have a last look…”

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