Review: Bold 2002 takeover of Chinese state TV plays out in hybrid documentary ‘Eternal Spring’ – by John Denton
“Eternal Spring” is a hybrid documentary/documentary play, as well as a political allegory about the conflict between Chinese state TV and the world’s news media, from which the film’s title comes. The film covers the period from March 1, 2002 to December 7, 2004, when, one day after the Chinese government blocked access to Google Images, the government ordered the closure of all Chinese-language websites on the Internet. The government’s response to the widespread protests on the Internet was to try to shut down the Internet itself, by shutting down all forms of communication between individuals and all other countries. This was a long and painful development process, and it did not come to fruition until two years after the incident. The film follows the people, mostly students, who are fighting to keep their own Internet alive and keep China from closing it down entirely.
The film’s characters, some of whom were interviewed for this article, include a couple of young students who are in the news media and a handful of reporters and news anchors. There are also characters from the independent non-governmental media, such as the China Change website, and a few characters who come from more traditional forms of government-run media, such as the state broadcaster CCTV.
The film is divided into two parts: the first part begins with the story of an unnamed man who is in the news media and the second part is on the side of the protesters. Some scenes of the protesters are shot on a live-feed camcorder and some of the footage is taken from an on-the-streets documentary style. The script is not credited.
The film’s title comes from a quote by Deng Xiaoping at the 1992 World Congress of Chinese Culture: “The end of the Spring is the end of the Spring. It is the beginning of the Autumn.” The meaning of this saying is twofold. First, it refers to the Spring, which we might, more commonly, call the year.