“The Power of Committed and Honest Cinema.” New York Times Reviews <i>Petition</i> and <
This week on dGenerate we will be featuring articles related to Zhao Liang’s acclaimed documentary Crime and Punishment to coincide with the screening of his films at Anthology Film Archives in New York City. Click here for more information on the screenings.
Petition (dir. Zhao Liang)
A.O. Scott reviews Petition and Crime and Punishment in the New York Times.
The right of the people to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” as the First Amendment to the United States Constitution phrases it, would seem to be a basic feature of the relationship between citizen and state. Even nondemocratic systems acknowledge the principle that the rulers should listen to the complaints of the ruled. Zhao Liang‘s “Petition,” a brave and wrenching new documentary from China, takes a bottom-up view of the cruel and absurd ways that lofty ideal is put into practice on the streets of Beijing. Mr. Zhao’s camera is a stubborn, patient witness to some shocking scenes of bullying and intimidation, and he also offers a sympathetic ear to the ordinary people whose government hardly seems to care. “Petition” is an anthology of Kafkaesque anecdotes, most of them fragmentary, but what gives it shape and almost unbearable dramatic weight are the handful of stories the director pursues in detail. “Petition” opens on Friday at the Anthology Film Archives, which is also presenting Mr. Zhao’s earlier feature, “Crime and Punishment.” That film, about the day-to-day work of military police officers, takes place far from Beijing, but its fine-grained insights into the workings of state power complement and complicate those seen in “Petition…” Together they offer eye-opening testimony both to the rigors of life in contemporary China and to the power of committed and honest cinema.
Read the full review.