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Pieces of China: Filmmaker WU Hao, Recap, 6.5.20

Pieces of China: Filmmaker WU Hao, Recap, 6.5.20
Pieces of China is an online series using objects to tell the story of China.

In this second episode of Pieces of China, we talk with award-winning filmmaker WU Hao on his “object,” a thick tome called To Change China: Western Advisors in China, by the great Yale historian Jonathan Spence, as he explains how the book changed the way he views his country—and the world.

About WU Hao’s Films:

His documentary, People’s Republic of Desire, which portrays the surreal world of livestreaming celebrity in China, won the SXSW Grand Jury Prize. All in My Family tells the poignant story of love overcoming prejudice as he introduces his American husband and their two children to his conservative family in China.


Selected Quotes from the Program:

Why on earth did you choose this book as your object? And what was happening in your life when you first read the book?

I discovered this book around the time I moved back to China in 2004…Throughout the centuries people always wanted to change China – not just the Western missionaries, western experts, but also Chinese as well, when Chinese people go overseas, they learn the western values, they want to bring these values back to China…It’s great and challenging work to change any aspect of China, and at the same time, it gives me hope that China could change”

Is this your own way to change China?

I can’t say I’m aiming to change China through my work. That film, all in my family, documents the process of me trying to change my family, and the compromises we reach in the end, in order to keep the family together.

I feel like the film documents my way of trying to reach out across the aisle to understand them and their effort to try and understand me, and the tentative truth we have reached in order to continue to love each other. So, in that way, I think we changed each other, because we continued to communicate with each other.

The west is still trying to change China. Ultimately, do you think this is possible?

China has already been changed. Take the LGBTQ issue: it’s still tremendously difficult for queer people in China to live openly and happily. But compared to… when I was growing up, there is a lot more room for freedom, at least for queer people in China. Things have improved tremendously … We have to have humility and understand — each country has its own baggage, and it’s a complex reality of social and economic factors at play — and to really listen to each other to be able to truly communicate and effect change.


Full Video of Pieces of China with WU Hao


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