" A single spark can start a prairie fire"
Beijing Spring chronicles modern China’s first democracy movement and forgotten struggle for freedom of expression. In 1978, Deng Xiaoping tolerated the open posting of grievances, liberal ideas and art on Democracy Wall near Tiananmen Square.
The “Stars”, a group of self-taught artists (including Ai Weiwei) exposed the inhumanity of the Cultural Revolution and challenged propaganda art, while Wei Jingsheng called for democracy.
By 1979, Deng became fearful and cracked down, closing Democracy Wall, imprisoning some, and shutting the door on this brief period of reform.
One filmmaker, Chi Xiaoning, dared stand on top of Democracy Wall, camera in hand, recording it all.
When he died, no one knew his film’s whereabouts. After years of searching, this never-before-seen footage was tracked down by the film’s director, now shown for the first time ever in Beijing Spring.
These brave voices of this officially censored moment in Chinese history will surely inspire all of today’s freedom fighters.
Andrew "Andy" Cohen is an independent filmmaker and journalist whose work is dedicated to effecting social change and protecting human rights. He produced, directed or wrote several award-winning documentaries such as Dealers among Dealers (1996), Killing Kasztner (2008),
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012), The World Before Her (2012), Hooligan Sparrow (2016), Human Flow (2017), Ximei (2019), which were shown at the FIFDH Geneva, Venice Film Festival, Telluride, Tribeca, Traverse City, Toronto International Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival among others, and broadcast on PBS, BBC, UK Ch4, ARTE, Netflix, and Amazon.
Cohen also directed and wrote a nine-part series of short films on China’s leading contemporary artists in collaboration with Art Asia Pacific for which he is a contributing editor. He is currently working on three feature length documentaries that are in post production: Talking Tacheles (2021),The Village Gate (2022), Title Shot (2022).
Gaylen Ross has directed, produced, and written award-winning documentary films for over 25 years, premiering in national and international film festivals.
She has had two films previously in the Berlin International Film Festival: the Emmy award-winning Blood Money: Switzerland’s Nazi Gold, a feature-length documentary on the Swiss Banks and the Holocaust accounts, and her film on diamond dealers Dealers Among Dealers which aired on PBS’ P.O.V and is considered the only inside look into this very cloistered world. Among her films, Killing Kasztner: The Jew Who Dealt With Nazis, was an official selection of the Toronto International Film Festival, broadcast BBC Storyville, shown in 11 countries and has enjoyed an unprecedented theatrical release in the US, Israel and France. It was named by the LA Times as one of the best documentary films of 2010. Her latest film Caris' Peace about an actress who lost her memory premiered at the Hamptons International Film Festival, won first place Athens Film Festival, Ohio; and presented as the featured film for the Rubin Museum of Art’s Brainwave series in New York.
Currently Ms. Ross is in post–production on her film Title Shot, a stark chronicle of professional boxing through the rise and fall of 1990’s junior middleweight contender Godfrey Nyakana as it focuses its lens on sides of the sweet science rarely seen and with Andy Cohen on the documentary the Village Gate.
©Liu Heung Shing
©Liu Heung Shing