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“The Errol Morris of China:” Article and Presentation on Hu Jie in Portland

Hu Jie

Hu Jie

On February 28, Professor Jennifer Ruth of Portland State University will give a presentation on international acclaimed documentary film maker Hu Jie and his work. The presentation, titled  “On Thinking for Oneself in Mao’s China” will show clips from three of his films: Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul; My Mother Wang Peiying; and Spark.

In the current issue of Propeller Magazine, Professor Ruth profiles Hu, whom she describes as “the Errol Morris or Claude Lanzmann of China.” She writes:

Hu Jie finds individuals who lived through situations that seem to defy representation and creates an atmosphere in which they can tell their stories—in some cases, for the first time. As his interviewees grow more expansive with the soft-spoken Hu, the audience watches them shed years of trauma. In startlingly intimate sequences, individuals reconcile themselves to the wronged lives they’ve lived, performing the excruciating but powerful psychological work of turning wounds and scars into cautionary tales and object lessons.

Writing about Hu’s film Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul, Ruth reflects on the struggles of those such as Lin Zhao, a victim of persecution during the Cultural Revolution, and others who sought to think and speak independently during the Maoist era:

Lin Zhao’s steadfastness in the face of extreme pressure attracted Hu Jie to her story, but so did the simple fact of her ability to think clearly when so many others couldn’t. “This girl continued to think for herself when the rest of China stopped thinking,” he says at the beginning of Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul. How does one retain one’s critical capacity when under enormous psychological and physical pressure to conform to ideology? How does one hold onto right and wrong when one can no longer freely test one’s impressions among others? Whereas Hannah Arendt explained how easy it is to stop thinking in Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hu Jie shows how hard it can be to continue to think in films like Searching for Lin Zhao’s SoulMy Mother Wang PeiyingEast Wind FarmThough I am Gone, and Spark.

Read the full article on Propeller.

Hu Jie’s films Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul, Though I Am Gone and East Wind State Farm are available through the dGenerate Films Collection.

Friday, February 28, 2014 at 6:30-8:00 PM in SBA 490 (631 SW Harrison Street, Portland, OR 97201) Presentation: “On Thinking for Oneself in Mao’s China”  by Dr. Jennifer Ruth, Professor of English at Portland State University Sponsored by the Confucius Institute of Portland State University


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