Artists' Television Access


What happened at Tiananmen Square?

Thursday, January 1, 1970, 12:00 am, $6

Tank Man 2
Tank Man detains army

» More images

The Gate of Heavenly Peace  

1995, 189 minutes (full theatrical release)

by Carma Hinton and Richard Gordon

How do you change your entire world? Last month at kino21 Guy Debord looked back on a life whose fulcrum was Paris, May 1968. This month we turn our attention to Beijing 21 years later in May 1989.

Telling the story through first-hand accounts, interviews, documentary footage and commentary, Hinton and Gordon examine the contradictions that arise when the leaders of a movement for democracy are only familiar with authoritarian political and social structures. Did the movement founder because of that, or did it function historically as an avant garde, its membership sacrificed to death, prison and exile in the course of changing the set of choices its people are presented with?

This unglamorous but absorbing film interweaves videotaped scenes of the demonstrations and conversations with leaders and participants with an explanatory narration into an account that is as clear-headed as it is thorough and well-organized. While The Gate of Heavenly Peace has its wrenching moments, it is neither an anti-Communist tract nor a romantic valentine to the movement’s fallen heroes. Above all, it is a hard-headed critical analysis of a youthful protest movement that failed and why.  Stephen Holden, New York Times

One of the most impressive things about this film is that it’s a view from the inside — Hinton has lived for most of her life in China; another is its refusal to adopt a single partisan position or to assume, as the filmmakers put it, that there is only one correct path for China. Drawing on a wide array of archival materials, the filmmakers have also made good use of expert advisers such as Orville Schell. This film is likely to revise the very terms of your understanding of the pivotal events it considers. Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

Leave a Reply