(trailer here) screens tomorrow night in New York as part of a Clermont-Ferrand Highlights program at the 92Y Tribeca.
Unlike more conventional documentaries, OTWTTS does not rake the mock of the shoddy school construction practices that exacerbated the quake’s death toll or challenge the state’s dubious fatality statistics. Instead, Tao Gu gives a personal-impressionistic sense of the catastrophe and aftermath, through the eyes of his survivor parents. Bearing symptoms of post-traumatic shock, they do not sound merely displaced, but bereft of their sense of belonging in the world.
Through grainy black-and-white images, he captures a devastated Wenchuan that brings to mind London after the Blitz, coastal Japan after the tsunami, or even a post-Atomic Hiroshima. Despite their terrifying memories of the actual quake, it might even be more painful for his parents to watch the authorities raze the not inconsiderable extant remains of their home.
Ironically, Tao Gu’s visuals might arguably be too artistically composed, giving the disaster area a patina of scarred beauty. Clearly a talented eye, his contextual shots of the surrounding countryside could make striking covers for ECM Records.