“Chinese documentary raises the flag for freedom”

The Sydney Morning Herald, which carries interesting China content with surprising regularity, has a piece about Chinese filmmaker Yang Weidong. His latest work sounds interesting:

The film, titled Need in Chinese and Signal in English, asked a cross-section of China’s leading creative professionals – 151 so far – a simple question: what do Chinese people need?

“Freedom,” says leading film director Jia Zhangke.
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“I need freedom of speech,” says Mao Yushi, a public intellectual who has mentored many of China’s leading economists.

“More free space for creative work,” says composer Zhang Xiaofu, a central figure in Chinese electronic music.

“I need free access to information,” says Yang Yang, an entrepreneur.

“In particular it’s freedom of speech and freedom of press, in general it’s democracy. In detail, it’s multi-party elections,” says Ye Fu, a fiction writer.

“Chinese people need morality, and law,” says scholar He Xiongfei.

Yang interviewed retired senior officials, too.

“I need government to respect the rule of law, and human rights,” says Cai Dingjian, formerly a member of the legal affairs committee of the National People’s Congress.

Yang plans to interview 500 leading civil society figures and to make more documentaries based on simple questions about Chinese aspirations.

Already, however, his portrait of what Chinese people really want is at odds with the priorities of development, stability and national power that Chinese leaders are pursuing in their names.

Yang’s interviewees are not confined to those with known liberal leanings and he asks no leading questions.

Most answers to his first question – what do you need? – revolve around the ideals of freedom, democracy, rule of law and morality. But some are more prosaic.

“Like everybody, I need money,” says rock musician He Yong.

“I don’t want for anything,” says Chen Ershou, a leading geologist.

“Never thought about this question,” says philosopher Wu Guosheng.

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Filed under China, development

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