CRIENGLISH.com Web Editor: Xu
A stage photo for Drama The Monument, in which Mejra is binding up the wounds for Stetko. The photo was taken in August, 2013, when the drama written by Canadian playwright Colleen Wagner came back to the stage. [File Photo: National Theatre of China/Wang Yuchen]
Anchor: Hello and welcome to this edition of "In the Spotlight", a show featuring arts, culture and showbiz from right here in China. I'm your host Li Ningjing.
First up on today's program, our reporter Doris Wang has an exclusive interview with Terri Tatchell, a Canadian screenwriter on her interest in science fiction and her secret for success. Terri Tatchell is best known for co-writing the screenplay of Oscar Nominated film District 9.
Following that, The Monument, a searing drama set in a broken country in the aftermath of war, has come back to the stage of the National Theatre of China in Beijing. The performing troupe, including director, actors and actresses, elaborate their improved understanding of the drama following its return to the stage for a 4th time.
We'll also read a historical novel titled "Nanjing Requiem" written by US National Book Award winning author Ha Jin.
And finally, we'll follow Sam Duckett to go to an exhibition by Swiss photographer, Hannes Schmid at the Today Art Museum in Beijing.
So, lots of interesting and informative stories up ahead on "In the Spotlight". Stay with us.
Anchor: As one of the few female science fiction writers in the film industry, Terri Tatchell has achieved the kind of success that many can only dream of. Nominated for the Oscar for her work on the widely popular movie, District 9, she is now a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and gets a say in who the future recipients of the annual film awards would be. Doris Wang recently spoke to Tatchell on her interest in science fiction and her secret for success.
That was Doris Wang speaking to Canadian screenwriter Terri Tatchell.
Anchor: The Monument, a searing drama set in a broken country in the aftermath of war, is meeting audience members in Beijing at the National Theatre of China from July 10 to 20.
Director Zha Mingzhe, along with the main actors of the film, talk about their improved understanding of the drama following its return to the stage for a 4th time.
XU Fei has the story.
Reporter:"The Monument" is a story about war and ethnic feuds. In this drama written by Canadian playwright Colleen Wagner, a widow is searching for the man who raped and murdered her daughter and 22 other women. Her quest leads to painful confrontations with the ghosts of the past.
Originally written in English, the play has been translated to Chinese following its premier in Canada in 1995. The Monument made its debut in China in 2000 and later was restaged in 2005 and 2013 successively.
According to Zha Mingzhe, the theatre director for "The Monument", the drama has been developed into one of their reserved classic programs.
"We perform it again this year because it's one of our theatre's reserved programs. Although the play was set at a war-time background, our emphasis is given on the main characters' inner world which portrays vividly human nature in an era of war. This is something that's hardly unveiled at a time of peace."
The Monument is a two-person drama. Stetko is the model boy next door and the son of middle-class parents; but when war arrived, it forever changed his life. Although he does nothing more than follow his commanding officer's orders, when the war ends he finds himself about to be executed for war crimes ¡ª charged with raping and murdering 23 young girls.
As the moment of his death draws near, a mysterious woman named Mejra appears, dimly lit to the bright spotlight on Stetko. They then strike a deal: Mejra will get him released if he agrees to do whatever she orders him to for the rest of his life. Desperate to escape his fate, Stetko agrees.
Young actor Zha Wenhao, who is also the director's son, plays Stetko. He talks about some positive changes that have taken place on the character as the plot develops.
"In fact, as Stetko was saved by the woman, he began to realize that he had the right to choose whether to commit crimes that he was demanded to carry out. He has gone from believing that he had not made any mistakes in the past to realizing that he should apologize for his wrongdoings. I understand that he's a boy ruined by war."
In fact, Mejra is the mother of one of the 23 girls who had been raped by Stetko. She is convinced this man killed her child.
Wagner's play is filled with suggestions of a revenge fantasy. As a result, Mejra is by turn, cordial, even compassionate, at others coldly calculating or filled with murderous rage.
Director Zha Mingzhe thinks it is Mejra's changes that reflect the complexity of human personality. Meanwhile Zha added it would eventually provoke audience members to consider a question---can there be forgiveness or redemption in the aftermath of bloody conflict?
"She even gave much concern over the young war criminal who had raped her daughter. She tried to give rise to the kindness and goodness out of this criminal's mind at the beginning, which makes her appear Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of Salvation. But later as the play developed, she was overwhelmed by her sense of revenge, which made her to show the same evil nature as Stetko."
As the Monument premiered in China in 2000, famous Chinese actress Zhang Kaili played the role of Mejra. And the upcoming performances will be given by another senior actress Wang Haohua instead.
When being asked to compare with Kaili, Wang thinks the character is a bit hard for her to portray since Kaili is a mother and she's not.
"When I watched the play in 2000, I felt that it was too heavy for the audience; they might feel great anxiety almost as if it's torturing their mind. The opportunity to play such a role is a fortunate thing for an actress. But, for me, it's a challenge more than an opportunity. I'm not a mother yet, which made it a little difficult for me to perform the role of a mother perfectly; particularly a mother who has lost her girl."
Is the mother the only victim of war? Are soldiers victims too? War leaves endless questions for audience members to consider even in a time of peace.
Also, calling for peace, the power of classic literary works is regarded permanent. Director Zha thinks that is the reason for a restage of the drama for a 4th time. Meanwhile, the director believes his performing team will give a more vivid performance as their experiences increase along with the rising number of rehearsals and shows.
"Our understanding and experiences about the drama will be enhanced by restaging it. In fact, the drama is not packed with new content but has been understood to new depths. That is what I call chewing the drama content to the very marrow. For instance, there is some content that we might have failed to understand fully when performing previously, but now since we've developed our own understanding, our show will be more powerful than previous performances."
The Monument is onstage until July 20th.
That was Xu Fei reporting.
Anchor: In December 1937, the Japanese army occupied Nanjing, the capital of eastern China's Jiangsu province, and proceeded to loot, burn, rape, torture and slaughter. This episode of mass murder and mass rape committed by Japanese troops during the War of Resistance against the Japanese Invasion is called the Nanjing Massacre. Some call it the Rape of Nanjing. It is a wound that never truly healed in Chinese modern history.
US National Book Award winning author Hajin, who is a China-born bilingual writer, wrote a historical novel named "Nanjing Requiem". Let's follow Chi Huiguang to find out more.
Growing up and finishing his higher education in China, Ha Jin went to the United States in 1986. He has already been in the main stream of writers in America. His novel "Waiting" won him the National Book Award. He was twice nominated in the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He has a strong attachment to China, since many of his works are about his native country.
Huang Xiaoyang is the Director of Editorial Department in Jiangsu Literature and Art Publishing House, and he is the executive editor of the Chinese version of Nanjing Requiem.
"Firstly, hometown exists because of one's leaving, especially for a writer. Secondly, he has the distance to handle relationship with the country, the nation and the piece of history. And thirdly, when he arrived at overseas, he would get a visual angle, which is much different from the angle inside the country. "
In his book, Hajin centers on Minnie Vautrin, an American missionary who saved thousands of Chinese lives. Minnie was the dean of the Jinling Women's College in Nanjing during the Japanese invasion. She opened the campus to more than 10,000 women and children. The people of Nanjing called her the Goddess of Mercy, but her regret over not saving more lives eventually led her to suicide. The author says the book is also an attempt to "put her soul at peace".
Yu Hua, one of the most famous contemporary writers in China, said that Nanjing Requiem would bring the shocking real war scenes and the miserable citizens' lives then into the readers' minds. Relying on his simple and sharp writing style, Hajin successfully establishes the vivid imagery similar to scenes from a documentary in the reader's mind. Undoubtedly, this topic about the Nanjing Massacre is extremely difficult for any writer to deal with.
Huang Xiaoyang, again:
"In the past, we often read the descriptions about the war and the massacre scenes in those book about this topic. However, Hajin uses his pen to tell us that, during the period of war, except for the miserable lives, there are also the ways how people could face the disaster and the efforts people make to overcome it."
Cao Yuanyong is the deputy chief editor of Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing House. He says that Haijin did not become aware of the heroic role some westerners played until he read Iris Chang's book "The Rape of Nanjing." Then, after he read the diaries of Minnie, he was inspired to write this novel. Since Minnie was a real historical figure, Hajin couldn't invent any happenings for her as a character. He also struggled with creating enough narrative drive for the novel. He made many revisions - at least 30 - to recount Minnie's struggles.
"The reason why the protagonist Minnie tried to save people, is because she was born of high morality? Not actually. She turned out to develop the glory of her humanity. And at last, the result that she committed suicide also makes the readers feel the complications of humanity and of course, struggle more or less."
Minnie Vautrin grew up in a poor family in Illinois. She graduated from the University of Illinois, and some missionaries who had just returned from China persuaded her to go there to educate Chinese girls. She started a girls' school in China and taught for many years, eventually becoming the dean of Jinling Women's College. When the Japanese invasion happened in 1937, the campus was used as a refugee camp, and Minnie did everything she could to help the women and children there. Hajin said that she suffered a lot. She was traumatized by it and eventually she had a breakdown... resulting in her suicide.
Hajin used some accounts from the diaries of Japanese soldiers to help create his story. He said that there are a lot of Japanese who really felt very guilty about this. Once the soldiers entered Nanjing, it was as though all evil was unleashed. One soldier wrote in his diary that there was so much killing; the soldiers were having trouble finding clean water to drink because the water was red with blood. Some veteran Japanese soldiers have since traveled to Nanjing, to the museum of the massacre, to express their regret. War is a disaster for every person involved in it, no matter which side they are on.
Nanjing Requiem has already been translated and published in China. Cao Yuanyong says that Chinese readers would get a new angle to observe the world by reading this book.
That was Chi Huiguang reporting. You're listening to In the Spotlight with Li Ningjing.
Anchor: Hannes Schmid is currently exhibiting his work at the Today Art museum in East Beijing. The Exhibition marks the photographer's first showing in Asia. Hannes Schmid is closely connected to Chinese culture through family. His wife is Chinese and they have two children. Sam Duckett went to the Today Art Museum to view his work.
Reporter: The Today Art Museum is currently exhibiting a collection of works from Swiss photographer, Hannes Shimt. Schimt is known for his several alternate styles of photography and often looks to different corners of the world to enhance his artistic vision. Many of schimt's previous work focused on Europe but he is now embracing China as his next destination to further his career.
I decided to pop down to the Today Art Museum to get a glance of his work.
I have just arrived at the today art museum; I am now going to look at the art work of Swiss photographer Hannes Schmid. There is a very cool modern feel to the exhibition, the entire building is white and there is this kind of epic music in the background. What puzzles me is this exhibition was meant to be the beginning of the relationship between his work and China. So far all the work I have seen has got very strong connotations to his western work.
A lot of the work here represents his formula one line, where you have a formula 1 car in the water with a strong athletic swimmer next to him; He also generally used a large selection of attractive foreign models.
One thing I have noticed that I had not seen in his previous work is the photographer is now playing with 3D imagery. It is almost like a JIF image, a replaying video which is made to look like a moving photo.
There are some elements here that relate to China, I am looking at photo of a foreign model with a ancient Chinese background behind him. This shows how he is trying to mix the concepts of his old and new work.
The exhibition is modeled across three rooms where he shows concepts of western thinking, dialects, theses and syntheses which may seem alien to eastern thinking and philosophy. The second and third rooms offer an artistic reconciliation and the merging of western and eastern culture. As we move further into the exhibition we will see more eastern and western culture mixing together.
One of the museum staff has agreed to show me around the exhibition and show me some of the more interesting parts of it.
"First we have the f1 series, in which Schimt places emphasis on speed and time. In this collection he has experimented with new media and creating 3D images. Schimt likes to work with 2d and 3d images and play with the concepts of time and space."
She has just explained the photographers' f1 series to me, which is a slightly older collection of his work.
We are now looking at the 3d exhibition where there are these huge spherical object just rotating in the air. This is more than just photography; he is now actually specializing in 3d modeling.
"The hanging image in the middle of the room can be customized by the audience. After scanning the app of the artwork, the audience can manipulate and change the image displayed. The photographer specifically laid out a collection of beanbags so that people admiring this piece could sit here and relax for a while."
So you can use your phone to download this app specific for this gallery. Via the app you are able to create your own artwork on your phone and subscribe it to the photographer. He has used a level of interaction within photography that has not been over explored in the past, and it is this that makes his work so unique.
My trip to the Today Art Museum was a genuinely eye opening experience. It showed me how the world of photography has changed so much since I studied photography over a decade ago. It has also demonstrated how the craft immersed itself in a digital age and the beauty of modern art.
The digital works used by Hannes Schimd do not propose that photography is loosing touch with the traditional methods of printing, staining, and making uses of different lights and natural resources but instead show how these traditional techniques can be enhanced with technology.
For Studio+, I'm Sam Duckett.
With that, we've come to the end of this edition of "In the Spotlight." We hope you've enjoyed the show. If you have any comments or suggestions, you can email us at Spotlight@cri.com.cn. You can also log on to our website at www.newsplusradio.cn to find out more about today's topics or to catch up on any of our previous editions.
I'm Li Ningjing and thank you for listening. Please tune in same time next week. Bye-bye.