Journalist and academic Ian Johnson reviews a documentary of artist Ai Weiwei with hidden footage of the coronavirus crisis in Wuhan for Plataformamedia. “The public needs to understand that this film is about China,” Weiwei said in a telephone interview with Ian Johnson. “Yes, it is about the coronavirus lockdown, but it is an effort to reflect what ordinary Chinese have experienced.”
In January of this year, the Chinese city of Wuhan became the first in the world to enter a lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic. This crucial period remains in many ways a mystery. Few images have escaped the censors’ control.
A new film by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has come to help fill some of this missing story. Although he is now living in Europe, Weiwei, working remotely, has directed dozens of volunteers in China to create “Coronation”, a portrait of the draconian lockdown imposed on Wuhan – of a country capable of mobilizing enormous resources, at a very high human cost.
“The public needs to understand that this film is about China,” Weiwei said in a telephone interview. “Yes, it is about the coronavirus lockdown, but it is an effort to reflect what ordinary Chinese have experienced.”
Despite its initial mistakes, China has managed to control the pandemic better than many other countries, having had 4,700 deaths, compared with more than 177,000 in the United States. The Communist Party has done everything it can to suppress expressions of sadness or revolt, but its efforts still have broad public support.
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