Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Second Time Around 

Wednesday, Nov 27 1996
The Gate of Heavenly Peace
The democracy movement that filled Tiananmen Square seven years ago lives on in Richard Gordon and Carma Hinton's three-hour documentary -- one of the most provocative studies of mass protest ever filmed. Gordon and Hinton refuse to view activists and officials from a Manichaean perspective. What they render is a tragic panoply of undisciplined idealists and rational reformers (among the student-led protesters) and well-meaning moderates and obtuse paternalists (in the government). All are subject to the galvanic pressure of public emotion; even an intellectual who helped stage a hunger strike to focus the thinking of the demonstrators admits he couldn't help playing to their passions instead. The filmmakers never sacrifice clarity to momentum. They reach back in history to explain the dynamics behind the cataclysms at Tiananmen: the students' romantic dream of a purifying rebellion and Deng Xiaoping's fear of anarchy and turmoil (a result of his own humiliation during Mao's Cultural Revolution). Harrowing, often inspiring, the film is also consistently enlightening. Gordon and Hinton have joined their critical faculties to their democratic sympathies, and the result is a contemporary political epic.

-- Michael Sragow

The Gate of Heavenly Peace screens Monday, Dec. 2, at 7 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive, Bancroft & Durant, Berkeley. Tickets are $3.50-5.50; call (510) 642-1124.

About The Author

Michael Sragow


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"