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Keyword: Memory

Paul PICKOWICZ; Translator: FAN Xiang


In the more than three decades since the appearance of independent, non-state-sector filmmaking in China, the initiative has grown in many remarkable ways. One of the most captivating directions involves the activities of determined filmmakers who insist on probing the complicated and often controversial realm of memory. Memory means remembering the past. What should be remembered about the past? Officialdom (in all nations) typically has its own, self-serving way of remembering the past. But independent explorers of China’s past refuse to function as cheerleaders or propagandists for the state. They are critical cultural producers dedicated to truth telling, even when it is painful. Consequently, their memory work has been highly sensitive and politically explosive. Officialdom prefers selective memory that pays homage to glorious moments in the history of the nation. They think remembering of this sort provides solid proof of the patriotism of filmmakers. Critical remembering that pays attention to the debacles of the past is said by officialdom to make China look bad. Remembering of this sort, they stress, is unpatriotic. Officialdom is thus insecure and defensive when it comes to the issue of memory. Independent filmmakers who take a critical approach to remembering are far more secure and confident. Their work often implies that remembering the traumas of the past is a higher form of patriotism and a way to prevent such tragedies from reoccurring.