Chairman Mao Zedong was looked upon as the Red Sun in China when he was alive. Many regarded him as the God who saved the Chinese people from years of war and suffering, but few realized that Mao's deity status was achieved by destroying the autonomy of Chinese intellectuals and silencing them through the implementation of Communist regime and a series of political storms that fell hard upon them. Our film is about one such storm which fell upon Hu Feng, a leading literary figure from the 1930s to the 1950s. Hu Feng was the first individual directly condemned by Mao and suffered several rounds of harsh criticisms, followed by twenty-four years of imprisonment. Mao personally initiated the Anti Hu Feng Counter-Revolutionary Group Campaign in 1955, which resulted in the imprisonment of 78 Chinese intellectuals, mostly poets and writers, and led to the incrimination of more than 2,100 people. Some of these victims were Hu Feng s friends or students, but most only knew him through his works. This documentary is the first to revisit these events after more than half a century, inviting nearly 30 survivors of the harsh storm to reveal the cruel truths that lie beneath China s official history. Archive footage, interviews, animations, woodcut prints, and original music are woven into this rich narrative.
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I am very impressed with and moved by the film. It is a fascinating document, a powerful memorial, an essential educational resource, and a truly brave insertion in the debate about China's relationship to its (buried) history. It is a powerful and defiant step in the essential political and cultural project of China recovering a history that it has officially denied. Without filmmakers (and historians and writers) doing the kind of work Peng Xiaolian and S. Louisa Wei are doing, China's present will never be able to turn into the future its people need and deserve. Storm under the Sun is striking in its bold formal/structural innovations. Its animations and use of music contribute a level of irony, of satiric lightness that cuts against the tendency to accumulate a gloomy, pessimistic mood of mourning and despair. --Shelly Kraicer, Vancouver International Film Festival
For me, it is refreshing to see a rich, political story told in all its complexity, without simplifying the history for some imagined audience. Too many films these days seem to water down their content to make sure everyone understands what is going on. I suppose that means the audience will be more niche and specialized, but I don't think that matters. The story of this remarkable group of intellectuals, writers, thinkers and journalists trapped in the political shenanigans and childish games of the ruling over-class is truly heartrending. I believe that what happened in those times is important for both Chinese and international audiences to acknowledge. The use of archive - so often poorly done in documentaries - was inspired. The lightness of touch gave the film a real soul and sense of time. I was particularly tickled by the anti-Hu Feng cartoons: so bizarre and sinister, with their warped humour. Storm under the Sun is a thoroughly moving and rigorously intellectual examination of a hugely difficult and complicated subject. --Arthur Jones, Variety
Xiaolian Peng and S. Louisa Wei have done world-class investigative journalism in producing a remarkable state-of-the-art documentary which provides not only the first general introduction to the Hu Feng case, the most important purge of a writer and his literary associates in modern China's history, but also a tantalizing first glimpse for the international audience into the exciting new movement in underground documentary filmmaking going on now behind the scenes in China. Hu Feng (1902-1985), the son of an unskilled worker in a village rose to become the most prominent Marxist literary theoretician in China for three decades from the 1930s through the 1950s and arguably much longer. The victim of petty jealousy as much as political foul-play, his fall had repercussions in the literary world still felt today. In " Storm Under the Sun" (Hong Ri Feng Bao) the filmmakers have traced down dozens of participants, victims and survivors of a mass campaign against the freedom of expression, one which was in fact an important precursor of the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. Without an understanding of the Hu Feng case, it becomes difficult to attain clarity on the events which have taken place in China since the Communist victory in 1949. The English version of this documentary is a multilingual film narrated in English but with the original soundtrack of clearly subtitled interviews offers an exciting and accessible chance for students, scholars and the general public alike to attain that clarity of perspective. The blend of graphics and archival footage is particularly effective. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in China. --Jon Eugene von Kowallis, UNSW
Peng Xiaolian belongs to China's Fifth Generation of directors and is best known for her cinematic representation of the life and history of Shanghai. She received her MFA degree from New York University and wrote about her overseas experiences in a novella collection titled The Way Home. In addition to her eight feature films including Shanghai Women (2002) and Shanghai Story(2004), she completed Red Persimmons (2001), a film left unfinished by Japanese documentary master Ogawa Shinsuke, which was premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival. Besides the novel titled Shanghai Story, Xiaolian has also published two memoirs Their Moments, Their Times (1999) recounting her parents' life experiences and Paradox of Realism reflecting upon Ogawa and his documentary ideals. S. Louisa Wei was born in China and received her MA and PhD in Canada. After working in Japan for two years, she began teaching in the School of Creative Media at City University of Hong Kong. She has made one short and two feature documentaries since 2003. Besides teaching, Louisa also writes feature film scripts and culture critiques.
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