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ALWH – Background

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A Long Way Home

Historical Background

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The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
Milan Kundera

The Heart of Darkness

The historical background of A Long Way Home is made up of two defining phases in recent Chinese history: the Democracy Movement of 1989 and the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976. Beginning with present-day China, «A Long Way Home» moves deeper into the «heart of darkness» of Chinese history. The focus is on how people handle historical and biographical ruptures and how they process traumatic experiences.

Cultural Revolution

During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), systematic violence was employed to eliminate everything private and to destroy social relationships. Mao Zedong and the Party relied on betrayal, public humiliation, self-incrimination, and re-education in everyday life. Mistrust and deep insecurity continue to shape relationships among people in China today.

ALWH-Background - a long way home - ALWH - Background

Top Party officials are denounced during rally in Red Guard Square, Harbin 1966

Tiananmen, 1989

In the film, the Democracy Movement of 1989 stands in direct opposition to the Cultural Revolution. What began as a student protest in Beijing soon grew into a sweeping movement uniting people of diverse social backgrounds. The first spontaneous mass movement outside party structures, it showed initial signs of a possible civil society that would not be able to germinate until after Mao’s death.

ALWH-Background - Tiananmen Tankman 1989 - ALWH - Background

© Gao Brothers, Beijing: The Tankman, 1989 

Outlook

The violent suppression by the People’s Army was a clear sign from the regime that the protest was not welcome and that public criticism of the Party would not be tolerated – a condition that continues to this day.

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