Back to 1942

It has been several months.

Yesterday afternoon I went to see the movie, “Back to 1942,” grim account of the famine that devastated Henan Province during the Second World War.  Some of the reviews from the States I have read speak of the film as being “distant.”  However, this was not at all the case for me.  Moreover, several of the students I work with are originally from Henan, and several of them have grandparents who survived this horrific episode in China’s history.  The movie was not distant to these students.  Just about all the students left the theater in a pensive mood.  They were in the process of digesting a very grim visual presentation of a time in their country’s history that, until very recently, was largely unknown. Outside the theater, on a cold early Beijing evening, a group of students and I huddled together to have a brief discussion about what we had just seen. I hope to have opportunities over the coming days to speak more about this movie with them.  In the movie the priest, played by Tim Robbins, says something to the effect of, “After 10 years in China, I thought I understood the country, now, after 30 years, I am not so sure.”  I have been in this country now for going on a year and a half.  My knowledge of China, not only its history and language, but also how the people here think, and what shapes and informs their thinking, is still skimming the surface.

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