Release year: 2011
Run time: 110 mins
Film type: Documentary
Evergreen Temple, shut down in the era of Mao Zedong, has rebounded after Reform and Opening.
People always come to the temple in order to pray to the Bodhisattva and burn incense full of hopefulness. What’s more, they gather together, talking to each other about their sorrows and sharing other experiences that they have had.
An old man in the temple talked with the filmmaker about his past, when Chinese peasants, whose fates are connecting closely with the exploration of New China, experienced a series of movements and revolutions, including land reform, the People's Movement, the Great Leap Forward, the Great Iron and Steel Forging Campaign, and the Cultural Revolution. The peasants’ basic need for food and clothing could only be satisfied once the household responsibility system and Reform and Opening were established, while other social problems continued to emerge.
After Reform and Opening, the plague of money spread on a large scale, social morality and values underwent a dramatic transformation, and peasants also started to care about money. Society is just like a big dyeing tank, and of course, there were no expectations for the temple. People there also only cared about their own self-interest, so there were many contradiction and disputes in the temple, too. Li Zhonglai, in charge of the temple, was faced with a dilemma and had no choice but to seek help from the Bodhisattva and pray that the people who started a rumour to ruin the stability of the temple would be condemned by the Bodhisattva. Will the Bodhisattva appear and punish the rumour-mongers? Are people who come to the temple true Buddhists? There are no definitive answers to these questions.
Jiang Nengjie is a renowned independent filmmaker, documentarian, and director. He was born in Hunan province in 1985 and was member of the first generation left behind by parents looking for work in cities. In 2009 he established his Mianhuasha Film Studio and produced numerous documentary films featuring the countryside in China. In 2010, he made the documentary film The Road, which was nominated for the 7th China Documentary Film Festival. His most well-known film is Children at a Village School (2014), which is about village children left behind by their parents who go to the cities to work as migrant workers. It won Best Documentary Film in the 3rd Phoenix Documentary Awards. He has produced numerous films since then, including The Ninth Grade (2015), Anti-Japanese War Veteran (2015), Jia Yi (2016), The Sichuan Army Veteran Peng Guochen (2017), Yun Jie (2018), and others. His most recent documentary, Miners, the Horsekeeper and Pneumoconiosis (2019), has been very popular online due to the increasing public attention to health issues after the coronavirus outbreak. He is currently working on Rainbow Cruise, which is a documentary film about the LGBT community in China.
Evergreen Temple was not a film I specifically set out to shoot. I don't believe in Buddhism, but every time I went to the temple, I always gained something. After shooting for more than two months, I decided to make a feature film.
In fact, what I am interested in is not Buddhism, but the past and present lives of the old people in Antang. I try to connect their past and present life through Changchun An. I just want to record something of these old people and tell us, the younger generations, or myself, how our older generations lived.
The first four parts (1949-1952), (1953-1958), (1959-1962) and (1966-1976) I deliberately made it in black and white, because that era is very strange to those of us born in the 1980s and 1990s. The impression in my mind of that era is very abstract, although that period of history is not far away from us. Perhaps the occurrence of a disaster is not terrible, but what is truly terrible is that the root cause of the disaster cannot be studied and summarized in depth after the disaster.