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Icarus Film
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Monday, September 23, 2013

Bo Xilai sentenced to life in prison

Following a sensational, closely watched trial, former Communist Party secretary in Chongqing Bo Xilai was convicted of bribetaking, embezzlement, and abuse of power by a court in eastern China and sentenced to life in prison. More from the New York Times here

Prior to his downfall, Bo was a rising star of the Chinese politburo, having made his name partly through his "red campaigns' in Chongqing, which promoted the revival of Mao-era culture, including the public singing of and dancing to Communist songs.

Filmmaker Bo Wang, who was born in Chongqing and now works in New York, captured many of the public spectacles that typified the campaign for CHINA CONCERTO, a recent essay film that investigates the changing nature of such displays in contemporary China. 

As Bo Wang explained in a recent interview with The Asia Society:
In China there is a deep-rooted tradition of creating strong images to render the longing for a powerful nation. But I don't think the obsession with spectacles is a particular Chinese thing. I think it is also hard to distinguish the spectacles' roles as simply being political, or being consumable. They mingle together. Many images do serve for patriotic purposes, but at the same time they're meant to be consumed. In Bo Xilai's Chongqing, lots of street performances were initiated as part of the campaign. But at the same, time many others were spontaneous — this was what I found most interesting. People join the performances not because they enjoy [them] or like the lyrics. This can work as a good model to understand how social regulation and propaganda works — not through making believers, but through shaping behaviors.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Essential background on the Syrian conflict

As congress debates potential U.S. military intervention in the ongoing Syrian civil war, much of the American media coverage lacks a historical perspective. Icarus Films distributes two titles concerning the country's political history:

SYRIA: CHESS MATCH AT THE BORDER examines Syria's strategic position in larger Middle Eastern geopolitical struggles. Bordering Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, the nation has operated as both a player and a pawn.

SYRIA: THE ASSADS' TWILIGHTproduced at an earlier, more hopeful moment in the current conflict, analyzes the regime of both Assads. Hafez al-Assad ruled the country with an iron fist from 1970 through his death in 2000. His son, Bashar al-Assad, was supposed to be different. A western-educated doctor, he inspired hopes for a freer, more humane leadership when he took control of Syria following his father's death. But after the shortly lived Damascus Spring, he clamped down, banning all opposition and resuming the tyranny that characterized his father's rule, and which has led to the present situation.

Both films provide the essential historical background to today's conflict.

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