China or the impossible journey

Since we decided at MiradasDoc in the year 2006 to begin along the pathway of the informative sections, Docurama, we have known that we were starting on a trail from which there was no return. In the manner of the emperor’s map in Jorge Luis Borges, the documentary cartography of the world, the orography which the cinema of reality offers on the size of the planet is, in the first instance, unfathomable, and in the second place, so wide as the territory itself which it aims to fix. The weight of our imposture measured it, precisely, the interest in beginning that process of review with the documentary cinema of China.  How, we asked ourselves, could we bring together a group of films, with no more than eight hours of projection time, which could respond to the enormous volume of variations, contradictions, the multiplicity and strangeness of a country which is, in itself, a complete and true universe? The task was so inaccessible and naïve that the project of a Focus on China was perpetually postponed. We were frightened by the complexity of the country, its enormous and vital society, its politics in convergence and in divergence, its culture of cultures and its language woven from languages. We were frightened, no less than by the foregoing, by the wealth of Chinese cinema and its character of a practically unknown continent (just a few of the main rivers, a few mountain chains, and the rest of the map was almost blank) for Spain. China was in our thoughts, year after year, and we were waiting for a signal which would say to us: “go ahead”. At the fifth edition of the festival, that signal arrived through Leland Ling, manager of Lic China, an important company devoted to television and cinematographic production, with offices in Peking, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Sydney. Around the market of our festival, and from a Lic China project selected at the pitching, a delegation of commissioning editors and purchasers from China, including Leland Ling, arrived at MiradasDoc. We immediately signed an agreement by virtue of which Lic China would offer, since an integral view of China is impossible, an individual version, an attempt, around the documentary cinema produced by the channel. And so our screening arises, almost like a challenge, to which we have responded with a wisdom and savoir-faire which are in our view highly noteworthy.

This screening of documentary cinema on China is an impossible journey which runs through, on concentric axes, the historical and the contemporaneous, the rural and the urban worlds, youth and maturity, contradiction and successes of an immense society, vast, passionate and necessary. The analysis of the media in Dead Man Talking does not prevent the film becoming also an analysis of the deep signs of the mentality of the citizens of that country, a criticism of its penal system and a complex search for the main signs of an harsh and difficult contemporary China. The same can be said of the vital, almost autobiographical journey of a meditative film such as Back to our Home Town, here, the journey through the lifetime of the character, from his childhood to his first maturity is also a journey through the recent history of the country, and a reflection in the steps, sometimes traumatic and sometimes brilliant, of a society in a constant process of change. My last Secret is a profound reflection on the human being of whatever nature and condition, a beautiful homage to the crudity, the reality and the possibilities of life when it is controlled by pain and character. Finally, the historical films, China’s Nuclear Bomb and October 1949 were built in such an intelligent manner that the openly historical content does not impede in any way the comprehension of the contemporary nature of the country through its major historical signs.
At MiradasDoc we are happy to have managed to fulfil an ancient challenge. Not all of China is here, but the impossible journey can be vaguely made out, just like a person who sees, through the mists, a ray of sunlight which does not allow him to contemplate its complete source but does let him guess from that minimal sign the clear essence of its existence.