A Beautiful Ode to Heritage And Loss | Eternal Spring Review

Eternal Spring is a beautiful documentary about the persecution of the Falun Gong people in China. It follows extraordinary artist Daxiong on a journey to understanding the group who hijacked Changchun’s airwaves in 2002 to broadcast a plea for the Falun Gong people.

The documentary uses footage of Daxiong visiting fellow Falun Gong practitioners who fled or were exiled from China due to their beliefs. In particular, we see many interviews with Mr. White, who was one of the people responsible for the 2002 TV hijacking. When Mr. White or Daxiong are deep into telling their experiences or reminiscing about their home country, the animation shows the audience what they see in their head.

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Director Jason Loftus with artist and film participant Daxiong. (© 2022 Lofty Sky Pictures)

Eternal Spring was directed by Jason Loftus, with the help of his partner Masha Loftus. When asked how he came to this project, he said:

“My wife, she’s originally from the same city, Changchun; she was the daughter of a mid-level government official there. So, she grew up sheltered from the knowledge of what the persecuted groups had endured under her nose in the same city, whether that was Falun Gong or other religions or dissident groups. And so, for her, there’s this motivation. She cares a lot about people in China, knowing these things that she was censored from when she was growing up there. And for me, my interest in Eastern philosophy and culture led me to Falun Gong before there was a crackdown in China. So, I was familiar with the group; I was familiar with the practice. And then, all of a sudden, there was this crackdown in China and this narrative that these people are evil and dangerous and need to be eliminated, and sort of my own inability to reconcile what I had encountered personally versus what I heard in the state media, I think, planted a seed in myself for concern about the human rights situation in China and wanting to sort of shine a light on it.”

While working on a Kung Fu video game, the couple met Daxiong, who has drawn for Justice League and Star Wars. Through their collaboration, they put together that Masha and Daxiong were from the same city, and the conversation about their experiences blossomed into the documentary we see in Eternal Spring.

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Film participant and illustrator Daxiong. (© 2022 Lofty Sky Pictures)

It seemed natural in their creative process to use animation to dramatize the Falun Gong persecution and TV hijacking because of Daxiong’s abilities. It immerses the audience into the story and acts as a meta way for our main perspective, Daxiong, to actively work through his trauma through the six-year period the documentary took to make. While Daxiong interviews witnesses and other Falun Gong practitioners, he will stop them before they continue their story so he can sketch out the scene both as a visual aid and as a way for him to understand how the story took place. The animated dramatization of the interviewee’s stories draws the viewer into a deeper understanding of the events, the kind of immersion most biopics only achieve by being entirely reimagined.

“ I really enjoyed how animation can be used in documentaries, but I felt it was something unique here; the animation would not just be an artistic decision by the invisible hand of the director. It would be something that could, in this sense, have an artist. He’s our point of view. He’s the one taking us on this journey. And so, we are interpreting all of these animations and illustrations through his lens, and it’s coloured by his own experience. And I thought that was a unique angle. And that’s why I think having this live-action component is important.”

– Jason Loftus

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The night of the TV hijacking. (© 2022 Lofty Sky Pictures)

The historical event is incredible itself; instead of being all about the hardlines of the persecution, we follow the story of a group of practitioners who fight back, which takes the form of a heist film. The way these creatives have brought that story to life is enthralling, a spectacular adventure with gruelling consequences in which the viewer walks away both inspired and politically conscious.

This film sheds light on how the Chinese government abuses its power to subject rule over their people by stamping out groups and religions that do not align with their philosophy and atheism, which places the government at the height of Chinese heritage and culture. It is important to note that the prosecution of the Falun Gong practitioners is but a fraction of the unjust persecution subversive people in China have endured.

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Daxiong’s childhood memories of Changchun. (© 2022 Lofty Sky Pictures)

As a testament to Eternal Spring’s beauty, out of a dozen nominees for Canada’s submission to the Oscars, Eternal Spring has been chosen as the Best International Film submission for the Oscars. So, major congratulations are in order: to Jason Loftus, Masha Loftus, Daxiong, and the rest of their team for such a fantastic feat.

Check out this incredible journey at the Cineplex Varsity Toronto and SilverCity Markham on September 23rd or in London, ON, at Hyland Cinema on September 30th. Or host a screening using their website.

 

 

About Isobel Grieve 34 Articles
Isobel is a bisexual Toronto-based writer. She has a B.A.H. in English and Media & Cinema Studies from the University of Guelph and a Postgraduate Certificate from the Humber College Television Writing and Producing program. Isobel writes about Arts and Culture; you can follow her @IsobelGrieve on Twitter.