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Keyword: Subalternity | Giving Voice or Reinforcing Subalternity? Spatialising the Chinese Rural Subject in Falling from the Sky by Zhang Zanbo

XU Kaiyang


Falling from the Sky 天降 (2009), by Chinese independent documentary filmmaker Zhang Zanbo, reveals how rocket debris frequently falling from the sky during the launch of satellites impacts the rural population in Suining, Hunan province. In this documentary, the discursive relationship between moving image, written text, and spoken language/verbal narration in representing the cinematically coded natural scenes (sky and land), modern constructions (rocket debris), and multiple media spaces (the black screen, photograph, television, video) anchors a documentary space speaking to Edward Soja’s concept of ‘Thirdspace’ (1996): one that is open, hybrid, and discursive. The filmmaker spatialises the negotiation between the underprivileged rural population and state power, which complicates and challenges the notion of subalternity. By avoiding a gesture of giving voice, Falling from the Sky deconstructs and shifts subalternity into a productive representation of rural lives in postsocialist China.