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A Piece of Heaven: Preliminary Documents

Writer/Director/Editor/Camera: S. Louisa Wei
Producer: S. Louisa Wei and Peng Xiaolian
Composer: Robert Ellis-Geiger
Art Direction: Connie Man Yee Chan
Consultant: Robert C. Jones
Cast: Situ Zhaodun, Situ Zhaoguang

Running Time: 78 minutes
Screening Formats: DVD
2007

World Distribution: Blue Queen Cultural Communication Ltd.
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Among young documentary filmmakers in China, Situ Zhaodun, a veteran professor of Beijing Film Academy, is a godfather figure. Many have shown their works-in-progress to him and received advice, but few know about his stories. This film explores the very meaning of memory and documentation by portraying him and those who influenced him, by putting together some strange puzzle pieces in his life: a 100-US dollar note with Mao’s head instead of Franklin’s, a handwritten script recording lectures from a man sentenced to death, a five-year imprisonment for offending Madam Mao, a forgot song written in the Cultural Revolution, a father who was the Minister of Culture in China, and a brother who sculptured father-figures of modern China. All these fragments are tied together through his 40-year-long friendship with Joris Ivens, his devotion to teaching documentary, and the birth of over 40 virgin works of documentary during his two visits to Hong Kong in 2003 and 2005. Shot over a three-year period, the film is also a reflection upon documentary filmmaking from early Chinese and Western masters, blending the direct-cinema style with old newsreel clips and “primary documents” constructed through research. The film also has a theme song written by Robert Ellis-Geiger.

Statement

It took three years and four very different cuts for Professor Situ and I completed our very first documentary journey together. I spent nearly ten months in editing and was thus able to incorporate comments and suggestions from many friends, filmmakers and students in the final cut. When Situ visited Hong Kong from September 2005 to January 2006, I spent some time in the editing lab nearly everyday. He would drop by and watch the film coming into its shape little by little. He did not make any comment until one day in December 2005, when he saw the beginning of the film: “You narrative is unique, and this picture is going to be interesting.” I was not satisfied and visited him again after he returned to Beijing in January, 2006. I shot him for only one more day, but this time something magical happened: I finally got the second storyline that I wanted. As a filmmaker himself, he made the shooting easy for me, but that did not mean people would be intrigued by the seemingly illogically way that I put the picture together. If sincerity is an important virtue, this film should not be disappointing on that.