Producer's Statement

“Outside the Great Wall”follows the stories of Chinese who were forced into exile in the course of the post-Cultural Revolution democracy movement and its suppression—from the Beijing Spring era of the late 1970s, centering on the Democracy Wall and demands for free expression, through the Tiananmen Incident of June 4, 1989. Beginning in 2008, we interviewed some twenty Chinese artists, writers, poets, and political activists living in exile in the United States and Europe. Thirteen of these exiles were included in the final film.

What was the nature of the democracy movement and the Tiananmen Incident; how did these exiles experience flight, arrest, and imprisonment after the movements were suppressed; and how did they go into exile? How do these exiles, now living in open societies with free access to information, view contemporary China? And how do they assess China’s future? These were the primary themes we explored.

The director, Han Guang, is a Chinese based in Japan, where he has published books and directed films for over two decades. The editor and co-producer, John Junkerman, is an American film director whose work includes “Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky in Our Times” and “Japan’s Peace Constitution.” And I, producer Yamagami Tetsujiro, am president of the independent Japanese production company Siglo. In carrying out a Japanese–Chinese–American co-production, differences in our cultural backgrounds and expressive sensibilities sometimes resulted in heated arguments, but I believe these clashes have contributed to making the film more meaningful to an international audience.

In the course of making this film, I became painfully aware of the fact that there are very few Chinese exiles in Japan, despite the fact that it is the country that is culturally and historically closest to China. When the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Incident came on June 4, 2009, the gatherings and statements issued in Japan failed to garner significant attention, and the public, the media, and the government show little interest in these issues.

Why is that we Japanese have so little concern for the problems of our neighbor China, when there is a history of deep involvement with China that stretches back to the founding of our nation? At a time when it is impossible to contemplate the future direction of the world and especially of East Asia without considering China, how can we continue to virtually ignore China, in our hearts?

There is no simple answer to these questions, but we must acknowledge that we Japanese have a deep-seated bias against China. At the same time, our awareness of human rights is exceedingly weak. During the course of producing this film, I repeatedly confronted these thoughts.

This documentary, “Outside the Great Wall,” was not made in order to criticize the Chinese government. We were moved by the humanity and wisdom of each individual exile we came to know through our interviews, and by their feelings for their homeland. We were strongly motivated to tell their stories. We must never allow ourselves to forget people in exile. This is true not only of Chinese exiles, but of the many people who have been forced into exile across the globe.

The existence of exiles forces each one of us to think about political and cultural tolerance, and challenges us to take action.

Yamagami Tetsujiro June 4, 2010

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