Joris Ivens in China

By Rene Seegers

With excerpts from:

une femme, une famille
(A Woman, A Family)
A portrait of the life and work of an ordinary family in the outskirts of Bejing.
From “How Yukong Moved the Mountains” by Joris Ivens, China 1976

Between 1971 and 1975, Joris Ivens and Marceline Loridan worked on the preparation and filming of the monumental “Yukong” series, consisting of twelve parts, each one hour long. Intended for a Western public, the series became a portrait of the Chinese and their daily life with its many aspects, allowing the Chinese to speak for themselves, while showing the benefits of the Cultural Revolution. Despite the restrictions that Ivens and Loridan met, the films remain an important document of this period of Chinese history. The film series was made on invitation of Zhou En-Lai, the prime minister of China.

Een Oude Vriend van het Chinese Volk
NL 2008

The documentary, "An old friend of the Chinese people", tells the story of Joris Ivens, and his relationship with China. It is a film about the ‘foreigner’ who must negotiate the Chinese communist government in his attempt to portray the country. For half a century (1938 - 1988), Joris Ivens tried to persuade his Chinese friends of the historical importance of truthful press coverage, even though his films were discarded as propaganda by some in the West. This dilemma also faced filmmakers such as Michelangelo Antonioni and writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. The way in which Ivens worked, the particular concessions that he made (and was forced to make) and what that eventually meant for him as a filmmaker, are all revealed in this film. His experiences are illustrative for journalists and filmmakers right up until the present moment.