The 34th Hong Kong International Film Festival is underway right now and one of its ’10-not-to-be-missed’ films is “Karamay” by director 徐辛 (Xu Xin). It is a film about the 1994 Karamay fire that the director readily admits won’t be screened in mainland China and had to be filmed under a shroud of secrecy.
It’s the story of the 323 people who lost their lives in a tragic Karamay fire on December 8, 1994, and unfortunately it is best remembered by the line that caused all the ensuing controversy:
Everybody keep quiet. Don’t move. Let the leaders go first.
This documentary is of great interest to me because Karamay has been my home for the past few years. I listened to the stories of the people who were present when smoke was pouring out of the theater and was horrified as they recounted all the bodies they saw. Almost every day I rode my motorcycle past the front of this theater that sits as an unofficial memorial to what happened 16 years ago.
Click for more details on the 1994 Karamay fire
The film is 6 hours long and runs without any narration or musical score which, as boring as that sounds, must be captivating because the reviews are all positive so far. Included are never-before seen videos of the actual fire and its aftermath as well as an interview with the only surviving student whose body is still disfigured by the burns.
Airing Grievances on the Karamay Fire
According to the film details, the subject of the film isn’t the children or the leaders who abandoned them, it’s the parents. Until now these people haven’t had an arena to air their grievances, pain, and frustration. The few who did make it to Beijing were immediately put on a plane back to Xinjiang.
Parents mourn the loss of their children from the 1994 Karamay fire.
Parents were distraught over how everything was handled
Karamay theater soon after the fire in 1994
I can’t find an official trailer for this film, but pieces have been posted on YouTube to give you an idea of what this is all about:Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 4)
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