The four primary writer-editors were all students, mostly from different cities, who had been labeled “Rightists” during the last bout of state-sanctioned insanity. Therefore, they were all highly vulnerable to whatever punitive measures the Party might unleash, but they were not planning to hand out Spark on street corners. They envisioned sending it to an elite, enlightened few within the Party bureaucracy, who might be in a position to foster reform. Alas, their naivety contributed to their sad fate.
Spark really did start with misplaced faith in senior Party officialdom. Shocked by the bodies literally piling up in the streets as a result of famine induced by the Great Leap Forward, the Spark core group assumed their local officials were merely applying national policy in an incompetent manner. However, as they ventured to other provinces and made contacts, they discovered the situation was just as dire everywhere else. Nevertheless, the Party and its flunkies insisted there was nothing wrong. Spark put this in print and they paid a fearful price. They were not alone though. The sympathetic local headman and suspected “Rightist” Du Yinghua, a Party member since before 1949, was also fatally purged.
Hu demonstrates how dangerous it is to preserve history when you live under a tyrannical regime. Yet, he has made it his calling with films like Spark and the more accessible and grabbier Though I Am Gone. Of course, his work is all connected, chronicling interrelated historical incidents. It is so frightening to the CCP authorities, they have shut down film festivals (as seen in Andreetti’s documentary) to prevent the screening of his work. For free thinkers, that that constitutes a heck of a persuasive endorsement. Very highly recommended, Spark and The Observer release today (6/30) on DVD.