‘Eternal Spring’ Tells Incredible Story Of Chinese State TV Hack – Deadline

‘Eternal Spring’ Tells Incredible Story Of Chinese State TV Hack – Deadline

In March 2002, countless millions of Chinese viewers were watching on state-controlled television when the program was suddenly cut short, replaced by a video defending the spiritual Falun Gong movement against attacks by the Chinese government.

This remarkable “hijacking” of primetime television, carried out by a small group of Falun Gong followers, is the subject of the Oscar-contending film Eternal spring, directed and produced by Jason Loftus and produced by Masha Loftus. The film — Canada’s official entry for Best International Film at the Academy Awards — played Tuesday night as part of Deadline’s For the Love of Docs virtual screening series event.

The brazen hack “was an attempt to counter the government’s narrative and the misinformation that had been underpinning the persecution they were facing,” Jason previously told Deadline. “They felt they had no choice but to take over the airways themselves, because leaflets and such just weren’t enough.”

Eternal spring has achieved an Oscar trifecta, and qualifies for consideration in three categories: International Feature Film, Documentary Feature Film and Animated Feature Film. The animation in Eternal spring is based on drawings by the Chinese artist Daxiong (Guo Jingxiong), a practitioner of Falun Gong who was not himself involved in the TV signal hijacking, but who was arrested and later exiled during the brutal attack that followed the hijacking incident. Jason Loftus met Daxiong when they collaborated on a video game project in Toronto.

“He dealt with the longing and nostalgia, being separated from his home, the pain of torture and all that comes with it,” Jason observed during a panel discussion following the screening of For the Love of Docs. “And you could see that reflected through his artwork. But he was willing to go on this journey, and he really wanted to understand this event that had affected his life. Just the opportunity to explore his artistic process and how that artistic process can helping him to come to a new understanding and hopefully some catharsis was for me a new dimension to how art and animation could be used in documentary.”

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Loftus explained the technical steps in which Daxiong’s two-dimensional drawings were transformed into an immersive 3D environment.

“That, to me, allowed people to have this sense of place,” Jason said, “that they’re inside the artist’s mind and they can kind of feel what it was like for him.”

Daxiong described seeing the finished film as “a dream come true”. He added through an interpreter: “It’s amazing. And for me, what’s more important than even the beautiful image, the animation, is the authenticity, the authentic feeling of my hometown, and specifically during that era and that time, I think it was well conveyed, and to me is that even more important and I’m very pleased.”

Masha Loftus had grown up in the same place as Daxiong – the city of Changchun, in Jilin Province (the city’s name means “eternal spring”, hence the title of the film). It was only after she left China that she gained a clear understanding of the oppression that members of Falun Gong were subjected to. The Chinese government initially took no issue with the spiritual movement, but as Falun Gong grew in popularity, the authorities banned the group. She recalled having a conversation with her father, a mid-level government official, about why members of Falun Gong would continue to practice their faith despite the risks, and why the government viewed the movement as a threat.

“He said, ‘Chinese people are very pragmatic. If they are willing to sacrifice so much for this faith, it must be really beneficial for them,” she said. “But, he said under communist rule, the party—just the nature of the party—can’t really tolerate anything that’s out of its own control. And he said we saw that in the Soviet Union. That’s the answer he gave me, and I think it’s very reasonable .”

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Chinese authorities eventually rounded up those who had led to the TV hijacking. Several died in prison camps and another died not long after his release, his body broken by torture. Daxiong went to visit the lone survivor involved in the incident, “Mr. White” (Jin Xuezhe), now living in Seoul, South Korea.

“I draw a lot of superheroes from comics like Star Wars, like DC, Marvel,” Daxiong said of his artistic career. “But all these heroes that I created, I will draw the real heroes from my real life. They live among us.”

See the whole thing in the video above. Our virtual viewing series event For the Love of Docs is sponsored by National Geographic.

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