Petition: Screening and Discussion with Zhao Liang
Introduction by Ling Zhang, PhD student, Department of Cinema and Media Studies
A harrowing investigation by Chinese documentary maker and artist Zhao Liang, Petition: The Court of the Complainants looks at the world of “petitioners,” people who come to Beijing from all parts of China in order to plead their case against injustices, and who find themselves embroiled in a no-exit situation which leaves them homeless, impoverished, even disabled. Gathered near the complaints offices, around the southern railway station of Beijing, living in the makeshift shelters in now-demolished “Petition Village,” the complainants wait for months or years to obtain justice. Faced with brutal intimidation from the local authorities, the complainants who stubbornly continue despite the abuses find that their hopes are often in vain. Beginning in 1996, Zhao Liang accompanied several complainants through their process, including a mother and daughter whose full story unfolds over ten years. Petitioners continued filming right up to the start of the Olympic Games, showing that the persistent contradictions of China continue in the midst of powerful economic expansion.
(Zhao Liang, China/France, 124 min, DVD, 2009)
Zhao Liang (b. 1971) is one of the prominent figures in contemporary independent documentary filmmaking in China, showing his works at the Cannes Film Festival and the Berlin Biennial, among others. He has also made experimental films and won several prizes for works such as Paper Air Plane (Zhi Feiji, 1997) and Return to the Border (Zai Jiang Bian, 2004). He won the Montgolfiere d’or Award at the Festival des Trois Continents in Nantes in France for his documentary Crime and Punishment (2007), a film detailing daily life in a police station located in the border area between China and Northern Korea. Petition (Shangfang, 1996-2008) was an official selection at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival. He studied at Luxun Academy of Fine Arts and Beijing Film Academy.