Ian Johnson’s interview with artist Hu Jie

China’s Invisible History: An Interview with Filmmaker and Artist Hu Jie

Ian Johnson
Sim Chi Yin/VII Hu Jie in his studio in Nanjing, 2015

Though none of his works have been publicly shown in China, Hu Jie is one of his country’s most noteworthy filmmakers. He is best known for his trilogy of documentaries about Maoist China, which includes Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul (2004), telling the now-legendary story of a young Christian woman who died in prison for refusing to recant her criticisms of the Party during the Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957; Though I Am Gone (2007), about a teacher who was beaten to death by her own students at the outset of the Cultural Revolution in 1966; and Spark (2013), describing a doomed underground publication in 1960 that tried to expose the Great Leap famine, which killed upward of 30 million people.

Most recently, Hu, who is fifty-seven, has produced a remarkable series of woodblock prints about the famine, based on drawings he made during his interviews for Spark. They were scheduled to be shown in Tianjin last year, but they were deemed too controversial and the exhibition was cancelled.

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