Representing Canada in the competition to be selected for the Best International Feature Film category is Jason Loftus’ semi-animated doc Eternal Spring, and I’m honoured to have such a strong movie in our corner. But while we wait for confirmation that the movie made the cut, audiences can check out this Hot Docs award-winning masterpiece during its current, exclusive theatrical run – I urge you to seek it out and see it on the biggest screen possible.
Eternal Spring is a marriage of different mediums that come together to tell a compelling and controversial story about those who fled their homeland after the Chinese Communist Party (CPP) placed a ban on the practice of Falun Gong. Falun Gong, which the film covers thoroughly, is the Buddhist art of self-improvement; a spiritualist practice where principals of truth, compassion, and tolerance are at the forefront of personal reflection. Infringing on religious freedom, the CPP was faced with widespread criticism by the Chinese population that made Falun Gong as part of their routine. For some, it stabilized their mental health.
Eternal Spring chronicles the underground movement that arranged protests leading up to the interception of broadcast airwaves. The “hijacking” was to squash propaganda and misinformation provided by the CPP. The activists would provide a video produced by the organization that explains the reality of Falun Gong.
Justice League illustrator Daxiong is one of those who fled their home in Changchun (North East China) for safety during police raids that often resulted in torture. Residing in Toronto and using his exquisite animated craft, Daxiong wants to adapt his experiences (as well as others) for an animated project that will finally bring therapeutic awareness and closure to these traumatic events.
The 3D animation seen in Eternal Spring (illustrated by Daxiong) will take your breath away. It’s some of the best examples of environmental scope I’ve ever seen. Eternal Spring begins with an amazing tracking shot of the initial raids in Changchun. The perspective runs with its character, swoops through buildings, and constantly circles back to give audiences a claustrophobic sense of this familiar city closing in on its inhabitants. The animated scenes that follow issue a cultured and detailed point-of-view that is so accurate, it brings one of its interviewed activists to tears.
Eternal Spring is a nerve-wracking thriller as we watch Falun Going practitioners and activists stand up for their beliefs, despite them knowing that their non-violent activism is being misperceived. The documentary, however, is also a meditative movie about how different art can be used to connect with those who have experienced shared trauma and have previously had no outlet to discuss suppressed memories. No matter where you fall on faith and religious freedom (because this issue is adjacent to other religions that are smothered by the CPP), Eternal Spring has undoubtably made a difference with those affected by the CPP, and will continue to leave an impact with movie goers.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie