THE COMMEMORATIONS: In Memory of Deng Xiaoping

梁碧波纪录片名人工作坊 央视网 2012年01月31日 15:17 A-A+ 二维码


On August 22, 1904 in the southwest of China, a baby boy was born in a little village named Paifang in Guang’an city of  Sichuan province; Seventy years later, he changed the destiny of the 5000-year-old country. Deng Xiaoping, the creator the Opening and Reforming Policy, is one of the best-known Communist leaders in the world.


 On January 4, 2003 the vice president of Sichuan TV station invited me to be the executive director of a new film series. He noted that August 22 2004 would be the 100th birth anniversary of Deng Xiaoping. As a provincial TV station in Deng’s hometown, the Sichuan TV Station planned to present a documentary film series on this important event. The film is scheduled to be broadcast on August 22 2004, via the Sichuan Satellite TV channel that covers all Asia. The Sichuan TV Station would provide the fund, personnel and equipment as much as the film needed.


 So I began to work at once. My first piece of work is to make the proposal. Everyone knows Deng Xiaoping dramatically altered China’s political and economical landscape. However, few realized to what great length he stretched himself to do so. I felt a need to give a detailed look at Deng’s personal history. I read numerous files and books about Deng Xiaoping; my assistants collect all historical footage as we could put our hands on and hundreds of interviews were made.


I went to Guang’an City for 4 times in the following 5 months, not consecutively, for my another documentary film Keeping Watch On the Three Gorges was producing at that time. From January to May, the SARS epidemic was burgeoning in China. Numerous checkpoints were set up along the roads and borders of cities. On my way to Guang’an, I was required to take my temperature for three times only within 3 hours.


 Despite of the disturbance of the SARS, my trip was still full of emotions. People of all walks of life told me their stories of Deng Xiaoping. I believed I heard an interesting anecdote about why Deng left his home for Shanghai and a boat to France at the age of 16. It was said that one day, when he was a naughty boy in village, he climbed up to a tall tree and pissed over people walking by. Unfortunately, his uncle became the victim. The angry man shouted at him, “ Don’t let me catch you or you’ll be killed.” The boy was scared and decided to escape. Maybe it was not true or just a joke. But through that we know what a vivid memory about Deng Xiaoping is preserved in the people’s heart. Moreover, in the 1930’s, when Deng Xiaoping and his brother Deng Ken looking for ways of raising money for revolutionary activities, one of Deng’s uncles sold all he had to help them until he was degraded from a rich landlord to penniless. Another story which stands out in my mind is peoples’ support to Deng when he was removed from power during the Cultural Revolution. When the Red Guard paraded and shouted “ down with Deng Xiaoping”, his relatives and friends in Guang’an always whispered “ never down” as a blessing to Deng, who was working under surveillance in some unknown remote place.


All these stories kept revolving in my mind. I came to an idea to make the film to memory about Deng Xiaoping as his 100th birth anniversary drawing near. The documentary will be named as The Commemorations. I wrote a proposal to the  board of Sichuan TV Station.  



In my proposalThe Commemorations is a documentary film series, consisting of 12 episodes, with the length of 52 minutes to each one. The film will be made up by three stories


Deng Xiaoping’s personal history

The history of a farmer’s son to become the senior leader of the Chinese people. Most of the footage can be bought.


China’s history in the 20th century

The narrative of The Commemorations, interviewing local people, many of whom relate fascinating and vivid private histories covering the years when Deng was a young man and several decades later when he became the leader of the Party, is juxtaposed with accounts of Chinese history going back to the early part of the 20th century. By means of the juxtaposition, The Commemorations covers much of Deng’s life and his impact to the China in last century.


People’s reaction to Deng’s 100th birth anniversary

As the title indicates, The Commemorations is a film that documents the 1-year-long involvement of 32 filmmakers, with the commemorative events held both in Guang’an and other cities all around China, interwoven with Deng’s personal history and China’s latest 100 years history. The core of the film is an account of kinds of commemorative affairs before and when Deng’s 100th birth anniversary comes. This part will be shot by the way of direct cinema.


My proposal was soon approved by the Sichuan TV Station. SoWe started the project in June 12 and planned to finish production by August next year. The Sichuan TV Station allocated to me 32 filmmakers, most are Sichuan natives. I divided them into 5 groups. Two of them will live in Guang’an for 1 year----- one in the city, another in the Paifang village where Deng was born. The 3rd group will be based in Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province, to collect and edit the historical footage concerning with Deng Xiaoping. The 4th group will be in Beijing and the 5th one travel around China, from south to north, from cites to the rural areas, to document every commemorative event in each corner of the country. My work is in charge of planning and job assignment, meanwhile guiding the shooting process. Still, I work from time to time with each team, talk with them and give them some help.


The greatest feature that The Commemorations has is its unique perspective focusing on Deng’s hometown; most film about Deng is engaged in depicting his revolutionary life and his achievements though. This offers a direct insight into Deng’s respectable personality, witnessed by his hometown people and the emotions between the poetic, emotion-charged leader and the local people. Moreover, Deng’s hometown can also be regarded as the epitome of China. It is worthwhile spending a year there to document its changes.


 Nonetheless, another important contribution of the film is its smooth narrative account of Deng’s impact to the Chinese history. Deng Xiaoping left the Paifang village at the age of 16 and never came back. So, if our perspective is limited in the Paifang village and Guang’an, the information density will be reduced. In order to break the regional limitation, The Commemorations is also featured by a clear picture of kinds of the commemorative events held in every corner of China. Through the documentary, the audiences will get to know the social changes in China, especially since the Opening and Reforming Policy was put into practice in 1980’s and the people’s gratitude to Deng for his wisdom and courage. Deng’s reforming policies do benefit most Chinese, include myself. Before 1978, many youngsters like me was impossible to be allowed to enter universities because we were born in the intellectual families or not having the “ revolutionary family roots”. It was Deng who changed the education system. Thanks to the economic growth due to his successful reforms, millions of Chinese family can live a high standard life, which their grandfathers could hardly imagine. We documented such a scene----- an old farmer holding a portrait of Deng Xiaoping tightly, while his neighbors were helping him move from an old house to a new one. The first thing the old man put into his home is Deng’s portrait instead of any furniture. Deng Xiaoping is alive in the people’s heart.  


 This film, although fascinating in many ways, is also a challenge. Because of the disjointed sequence of Deng’s anecdotes taken from the interviewee’s experience, to us it is a work-in-progress to make them rational. It is only with some effort that one can figure out the Chinese history in the latest 100 yeas. However, there are some gems, consisting the account of people encountered by the filmmakers and it is these which give the film its redeeming value.



Till now, we have already had footage of more than a half thousand hours. From May to July next year , we will begin the post-production work. I believe The Commemorations will be accepted and welcomed by the people.


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