________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 19 . . . . May 21, 1999

cover Sunrise Over Tiananmen Square.

Shui-Bo Wang (Director). Donald McWilliams and Barrie Angus McLean (Producers).
Montreal, PQ: The National Film Board of Canada, 1998.
29 min., 25 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9198 030.

Subject Headings:
Wang, Shui-Bo.
China-History-Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976.
China-History-Tiananmen Square Incident, 1989.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.

**** /4

A decade will soon have passed since the bloody massacre in Tiananmen Square. For those of us in the West, it was a most powerful expression of a people seeking to express their desire for greater freedom. It was also an event that we witnessed via the distant safety of television, but, for artist Shui-Bo Wang, it was a happening which he experienced firsthand. The convoluted path of Shui-Bo's personal and political life which brought him to that life-changing place forms the subject matter of this video.

      At the video's outset, Shui-Bo says that everyone of his generation did a drawing of the sunrise over Tiananmen Square because the square, capable of holding a million and a half people, was both the heart and the symbol of the new China. In Shui-Bo's rendition, sunflowers represented the new generation of communists while the red sun was the people's great leader, Mao Tse Tung. In this autobiographical documentary, Shui-Bo uses his artwork, sometimes in an animated form, plus family and other photographs to trace both his family's and his own personal connection with communism in China. Shui-Bo's grandfather, an early member of the Chinese Communist Party, was so loyal that he divorced his wife from an arranged marriage to wed a party member. Born in 1960, Shui-Bo recalls the Cultural Revolution and remembers the local school headmaster's committing suicide after being denounced by his own daughter. Some years later when China and Russia were engaged in border disputes, Shui-Bo's own father considered suicide because he was suspected of being a Russian spy because of his Russian first name, ironically a name given him to honor Russia for being the birthplace of communism. Shui-Bo's biggest dream was to meet Mao in person in Tiananmen Square, but Mao's death cheated him of that opportunity though, at 16 and a soldier in the People's Army, Shui-Bo saw Mao's remains in Tiananmen Square. An artist in the army, Shui-Bo created patriotic posters for propaganda purposes, and, at 20, he joined the Chinese Communist Party. With his compulsory military service over, Shui-Bo first attended art school near Tiananmen Square in 1981 and, upon graduation, was hired to teach at the art school, a place where he continued to be exposed to liberal Western ideas which he tried to reconcile with communism. His travels to other parts of China showed him that the country had not made the economic strides claimed, but Shui-Bo's loyalty to communism remained steadfast until June 4, 1989, the "darkest day of my life," when soldiers from the People's Army turned their weapons on their own people, many of them students from Shui-Bo's school. Some four months later, a now disillusioned Shui-Bo left China for North America, but he still hopes that one day he can return to see a "sunrise over Tiananmen Square."

      Amazingly, in less than half an hour, Shui-Bo, through telling his own personal story, packs in the major happenings in China over the last seven decades, and he does so in a way which is both engaging and informative. An excellent video to use in conjunction with William Bell's Forbidden City.

1999 Academy Award nominee for best Documentary Short Subject.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in YA literature at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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