Sunday, December 16, 2012

Movie of the Year: Clint, a Chair and Petition

The most gripping drama I saw this year was Clint Eastwood's performance of an actor addressing the audience of a political convention in the late summer of this year. Eastwood's role is as an old actor who takes to the television airwaves for an embarrassing eleven minutes as he remonstrates with an empty chair, where supposedly sits the president of the United States. The actor Eastwood plays hasn't prepared his lines, and is distracted and unfocused. When he does say something, it's inappropriately belligerent and at odds with the setting. As the seconds tick by, the tension mounts as all who watch know that this moment - the climax of the convention - has cost millions and was planned month in advance, suddenly lurches into a crazy off script turn that could spoil the career of a presidential hopeful.
Well, that's not really a movie, and the next one, I only managed to watch this year. But it's real, very real. It was made over a period of 12 years and completed in 2009, and released in the United States in 2011. The movie's name is Petition and the director Zhao Liang shot the movie on digital video, much of it from hidden cameras. It is a documentary about a group of petitioners, Chinese people who have been subject to some injustice and after being thwarted at the local level, have come to Beijing where they mingle with other similar cases from all across the country.
The petitioners are fearless and determined, but lead utterly marginal lives, subsisting on found food and sleeping in improvised shelters. They show us how much people are willing to endure when they believe their (admittedly hopeless) cause is just. There's a teacher who was fired for exposing corruption in his school's administration. Another, a young man who was arbitrarily beaten and hospitalized by thuggish policeman. And a woman who's husband died mysteriously while being given a workplace medical exam and then summarily cremated. They don't sound like much, but if it's inspiration you seek, set aside your Amazing Spiderman comics and DVD and watch Petition. These are real heroes. Such people will be the kernel of any movement that arises in China to challenge the current regime. Most reviews I've seen speak only of the Kafkaesque justice system in China. They are missing the remarkable dignity of those who are fighting it.

I've uploaded this movie in a file just under one gigabyte to The Pirate Bay. It's in Mandarin with English and French subtitles. I will be seeding this over the next little while as long as interest holds. Click here to get the torrent file.

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