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Tiananmen @ 35 Film Screening: The Gate of Heavenly Peace

April 22 @ 4:30 pm 8:00 pm

Introduction: Carma Hinton, Art historian and Documentary Filmmaker; Robinson Professor of Visual Culture and Chinese Studies, George Mason University (retired)

“In The Gate of Heavenly Peace (the literal translation of the name Tiananmen), the causes, effects and fallout from the six-week protest that led up to the Chinese government’s crackdown on dissidents are detailed with intelligence, grace and toughness. Filmmakers Carma Hinton and Richard Gordon have transformed news into history, and history into art.” — Michael Blowen, The Boston Globe  

The Gate of Heavenly Peace chronicles the heroism, drama, tension, humor, absurdity, and many tragedies of the peaceful popular protests during the spring weeks of 1989, culminating on June 4th, when the government’s bloody crackdown dashed the hopes of millions. Using archival footage and contemporary interviews with a wide range of Chinese citizens, including students, workers, intellectuals, and government officials, the film reveals how the hard-liners within the government marginalized moderates among the protesters, resulting in the voices for reason gradually being cowed and then silenced by extremism and emotionalism on both sides.

It is a sobering tale, for faced with the binary opposition between hardened stances, there has been little middle ground left for the rational and thoughtful proponents of positive reform in China. By giving these ignored voices their proper place in history, The Gate of Heavenly Peace reveals an ongoing debate in 20th century China regarding revolution and reform, as well as the importance of personal responsibility and moral integrity, the need, as Vaclav Havel has put it, to “live in the truth.”

Carma Hinton is an art historian and a filmmaker. She was born in Beijing, and Chinese is her first language and culture. She received her Ph.D. in Art History from Harvard University and taught at various universities between major film projects. Together with Richard Gordon, Hinton has directed many documentary films on China, including Small Happiness, All Under Heaven, To Taste a Hundred Herbs, Abode of Illusion: The Life and Art of Chang Dai-chien, The Gate of Heavenly Peace, and Morning Sun. She has won two Peabody Awards, the American Historical Association’s John E. O’Connor Film Award, the International Critics Prize and the Best Social and Political Documentary at the Banff Television Festival, among others. She retired from her position as Robinson Professor of Visual Culture and Chinese Studies at George Mason University recently to focus on her book about traditional Chinese scrolls depicting the theme of demon quelling and work on the extensive archive of film and other visual materials she and Richard Gordon collected over decades of research and film production. 

The Gate of Heavenly Peace produced and directed by Carma Hinton and Richard Gordon. United States, 1995, documentary, 187 min.


April 22
4:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Event Categories:


Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies


CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium (S010)

1730 Cambridge St
Cambridge, MA 02138 United States

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