China Beat Archive



Angilee Shah

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October 25, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright October 25, 2008 Angilee Shah. Used by permission.


Busan, Korea – Pan Jianlin’s documentary about the earthquake that struck Sichuan province on May 12 made a quiet debut on a Sunday morning, at 10 a.m., the third day of this year’s Pusan International Film Festival.

With its not-so-great timing and grim title, Who Killed Our Children was a blip on the festival calendar’s 315 films and 85 world premieres. And if you happened to miss the documentary in Korea, it’s possible you will not have an opportunity to see it again.

Pan’s film’s subject is as simple as its title, examining the collapse of one of the many schools that became deathtraps for thousands of children after the quake. That subject has been a closed one in official Chinese media since mid-summer which makes Pan’s exploration of the subject very significant.

But after its two small Pusan screenings, the film has no further festival dates to speak of. And though it’s some of the strongest reporting on the earthquake produced so far, it’s almost certain that it won’t be shown in China, except on the black market or in private screenings. In fact, Who Killed Our Children never received Chinese government permission to be screened in the first place.

Pan, a Beijing resident, gives a big smile and a little laugh when you ask him about operating without the official approval so many other Chinese filmmakers depend on. The highly-anticipated feature All about Women pulled out of the festival when it could not get the nod from Chinese authorities in time. Directors are required to seek permission to show their work abroad, and films are often cut to make sure China is shown in a good light.