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Basking in the Sun

Hu Jie

Release year: 2002

Run time: 50 mins

Film type: Documentary


Contemporary art has become a fashion pursued by urban youth. Young artists often organize activities in small groups, but the government cannot accept this and imposes restrictions on these activities. But artists also have ways to display their work.

This film records Nanjing’s modern art exhibition, "Basking in the Sun". Several artists from this city have gathered more than 200 colleagues from other regions to participate. They cleverly avoided the restrictions of the authorities and chose a deserted island in the countryside as their site. They even dispatched government departments to entertain media reporters and deployed police to escort the event. "Basking in the Sun" was well attended, attracting a large audience.

However, the works exhibited touched on questions of official ideology, and the provocative media coverage captured and amplified the event’s influence. As a result, the painstaking efforts of the organizers and the township government were not only in vain, but also counterproductive. After reading the coverage, ordinary people also started to pay attention to "Basking in the Sun". They criticized modern art and government corruption. This attracted the attention of the Nanjing Municipal Government, and as a result the lower-level township government quickly changed its attitude. The organizers of "Basking in the Sun" were frustrated, panicked, and stopped working. In response to this change, art critics pointed out that the news media played the role of ideological police.


Director biography

Hu Jie is an independent historian, artist, and filmmaker. Born in Jinan, Shandong in 1958, he graduated from the Art College of the People’s Liberation Army. He works in oils and woodcuts from his lakeside studio in Nanjing. His films are among the most important documents of China’s unacknowledged “unoffcial history”, and include Looking for Lin Zhao’s Soul (2005), about a martyr-poet critic of Mao; and Though I Am Gone (2007), about an elite Beijing girls’ high school whose students murdered their headmaster at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.