DVD, with Hu’s Spark.
The Observer pairs up particularly well with Spark, because Andreetti’s film begins with the permanent closure of the Beijing Independent Film Festival and the confiscation of their complete archives, because of the fest’s plans to screen Hu’s film. Shockingly, this has happened to other festivals that planned to screen Hu’s work—usually on the down low.
Andreeti surveys Hu’s body of work, giving special consideration to Spark (exposing the mass starvation of The Great Leap Forward), In Search of Lin Zhao’s Soul (revealing abuses of the Anti-Rightist Movement), and Though I Am Gone (chronicling the personal tragedies of the Cultural Revolution). She also briefly sketches out Hu’s biography and gives his eternally patient wife a chance to have her say.
illustrates a recent New York Review of Books piece asking “Who Killed More: Hitler, Stalin or Mao”)—so much so, the local Party apparatus reverts to its usual censoring ways—as viewers will plainly see and hear.
So, give Andreetti due credit. She set out to create a portrait of a censored artist and managed to record it happening in real time. That’s pretty gutsy too. Admittedly, she was not running the same risks as Hu, but her resulting film will surely complicate any further projects in China. Yet, it was worth it, because The Observer is clearly of work of great honesty and integrity. It is a documentary worthy of its subject—and a timely one, given the way the CCP is trying to apply its media censorship in other countries. Along with Spark, it provides a wake up call regarding the regime’s practices (but it may already be too late for Hong Kong and East Turkestan). Very highly recommended, Spark and The Observer release today (6/30) on DVD, from Icarus Films and dGenerate Films.