Film Series / Events

Search All Film Series (1999-present)
Browse All Film Series

February 1

Petition by Zhao Liang

Beneath the radar of the feverish economic boom transforming mainland China, an underground revolution is taking place in low-budget documentary filmmaking. Over the last few years a number of talented and courageous independent filmmakers have dedicated themselves to capturing the rapid changes reinventing the landscape, cities and culture of a country that continues to stoke the red-hot fires of its ardent economic development. The development of ultra-lightweight and unobtrusive digital equipment, as well as support from the international circuit of art galleries, museums, film festivals and cinemathèques, has helped these filmmakers bypass the government agencies that closely monitor big budgeted productions.

One of the newest directors to emerge from China’s exciting documentary new wave is Zhao Liang, an internationally recognized video artist who only recently turned to feature filmmaking. With his series of insightful documentaries focused on subjects ranging from the avant-garde community in Beijing to the experiences of young peace officers patrolling a remote village, Zhao is poised to join the front ranks of Chinese nonfiction filmmakers, alongside the likes of Wang Bing, Jia Zhangke and Zhao Dayong.

This program is presented in conjunction with Emergent Visions, with support from the Fairbank Center and the Asia Center, Harvard. Special thanks: J.P. Sniadecki, Jie Li, Ying Qian, Tarryn Chun, Emergent Visions.

Special Event Tickets $12
Monday February 1 at 7pm


Directed by Zhao Liang, Appearing in Person
China 2009, video, color, 120 min. Mandarin with English subtitles

The dysfunctional Chinese court system allows citizens with grievances against their local governments to petition the court to clear or correct their record. Yet in order to do so, the petitioners must travel to Beijing to file paperwork and wait an indefinite period to plead their case. The vast majority of petitioners are impoverished villagers who travel far to the capital and typically end up waiting desperately in decrepit shantytowns for their cases to be settled, often pressured by hired thugs to return home. Following the saga of a group of petitioners over the years of 1996 and 2008, Petition unfolds like a novel by Zola or Dickens. Unwilling to accept defeat and seemingly unable to do anything but wait, the petitioners enter a strange and often terrifying zone, gradually losing touch with family and friends back home and with the cruel reality of their situation.

Return to Top
Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700