After repeated threats from authorities, the Beijing Independant Film Festival was shut down. The government wouldn't tolerate their showing Spark, an incendiary historical documentary that revealed human rights violations during The Great Leap Forward. News of the festival's cancellation reverberated around the world. Who was the artist whose work had pushed the government past the edge of tolerance?
Away from the limelight, dissident artist Hu Jie has managed to make more than 30 documentaries. Films like Though I Am Gone and Searching for Lin Zhao's Soul are vital to understanding Chinese history and society and preserving memory of its past. Widely recognized as the first artist to dare talk about the Great Famine, the labor camps and the Cultural Revolution in an unfiltered way, Hu Jie is considered China's first historical documentary-maker&emdash;even though he's blacklisted.
Featuring lush photography and revealing interviews, filmmaker and critic Rita Andreetti's sensitive portrait, The Observer, explores Hu Jie's commitment, tenacity and courage, as well as the toll those have taken in his personal life. Through the creation not only of films but also of woodcuts and paintings, he continues to fight for the truth... but will museums, galleries and movie theaters have the courage to show the work that he makes?
"Though none of his works have been publicly shown in China, Hu Jie is one of his country's most noteworthy filmmakers." —Ian Johnson, The New York Review of BooksWork-in-progress screening, China Screen Film Festival, France
Work-in-progress screening, Aegean Docs Documentary Film Festival, Greece
"Revealing. A thoughtful, creative artist defined by honesty and candor; [his] voice should be given wider audience." —Rouven Linnarz, Asian Movie Pulse
"Hu Jie's body of work puts a human face on some of the worst horrors of the Communist Party's recent history." —Matthew Bell, Public Radio International
"We can only imagine how difficult it is for Hu to produce his films; only a committed person who takes what he does as a 'calling,' can persist." —Dr. Weili Yu, Yale University, in the journal Asian Educational Media Service