Review: Bold 2002 takeover of Chinese state TV plays out in hybrid documentary ‘Eternal Spring’ in English
Cinematographer Mark Lee has assembled a documentary portrait of China’s largest media group that combines a real-time, live-streamed coverage of an annual meeting of the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee (CCP) with the “documentary” that was a staple of TV in China: the “interview” (aka “tea-tea”) between leaders of state-run media organizations.
While this all took place in the heart of Beijing, this is not an official film and will never be released. What Lee has done is assemble a mix of “real” documentary interviews and fictionalized versions of some of the real-life meetings with the state media executives, to produce a hybrid film that is both real and fictional, and combines news with reportage. He describes himself as “a journalist who loves to make stuff up.”
The result is an unusual blend of news and reportage that weaves together a series of fictionalized meetings with state media executives with the real events surrounding them.
What is most interesting about the film is how Lee mixes in fictionalized accounts with actual in-depth interviews with the executives of all four state media organizations at that year’s meeting. As Lee reports on their conversation, he makes use of a camera and microphone that was hidden in the back of a waiting room at the meeting, and which a participant in the meeting had brought with him, so that there is no recording of that meeting. In Lee’s version of the meeting, all the “interview” includes is the “tea-tea” session that takes place over a video camera.
The film makes its point about the merging of state-run media and the CCP by showing interviews with real people at a major CCP annual meeting, with actors portraying the same state media executives. The film features shots of the participants at the meeting, and the film’s final credits also show real people giving “tea-tas” or interviews to these film