Chairman Mao Zedong was looked upon as "the Red Sun" in China. Many regarded him as the "God" who saved the Chinese people from years of war and suffering, but Mao's deity status was achieved by destroying the autonomy of Chinese intellectuals, silencing them through the implementation of Communist regime and a series of political "storms." Storm under the Sun is about the storm which fell upon Hu Feng, a renowned writer and literary theorist since the 1930s. He founded the July and Hope magazines and nurtured a generation of poets and writers. The Communist Party organized rounds of systematic criticism on Hu Feng between 1944 and 1954. In 1955, Mao personally directed a nation-wide campaign against him and his friends. The Hu Feng Case resulted in the imprisonment of 92 Chinese intellectuals, mostly poets and writers, and led to the incrimination of more than 2,100 people. Some of these victims were Hu Feng's friends or students, but most only knew him through his works. This documentary is the first to revisit these events after more than half a century, inviting nearly thirty survivors of the harsh "storm" to reveal the cruel truths that lie beneath China's official history. Archive footage, animations, woodcut prints and original music are used to enrich the narrative.

Directors' Biography

Peng Xiaolian belongs to China's "Fifth Generation" of directors and is best known for her cinematic representation of the life and history of Shanghai. She received her MFA degree from New York University and wrote about her overseas experiences in a novella collection titled The Way Home. In addition to her eight feature films including Shanghai Women (2002) and Shanghai Story(2004), she completed Red Persimmons (2001), a film left unfinished by Japanese documentary master Ogawa Shinsuke, which was premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival. Besides the novel titled Shanghai Story, Xiaolian has also published two memoirs—Their Moments, Their Times (1999) recounting her parents' life experiences and Paradox of Realism reflecting upon Ogawa and his documentary ideals.

S. Louisa Wei was born in China and received her MA and PhD in Canada. After working in Japan for two years, she began teaching in the School of Creative Media at City University of Hong Kong. She has made one short and two feature documentaries since 2003. Besides teaching, Louisa also writes feature film scripts and culture critiques.

Directors' Statements

On March 17, 1967, poet Ah Long died in prison of bone marrow cancer. On April 2, 1968, my father Peng Boshan was whipped to death by the Red Guards.

The two men never met each other and had no connection. Being involved in the same case, they both died for being members of the "Hu Feng Counterrevolutionary Clique."

In those years, death was a daily matter. Even when facing my father's death, As a 14 year-old, I seemed quite rational. I do not know how we were so "strong." Many years later, after I had studied and lived in New York for seven years, I began to learn about the value of a human being and to realize the meaning of family and the importance of my father to me. Looking back, it is shocking that I was once so "strong." We were brainwashed to the extent that we did not value our lives. I had the urge to reflect upon the past. This is perhaps my initial motivation to make Storm under the Sun with S. Louisa Wei.

-Peng Xiaolian

During the past five years, I have witnessed the damages of the Hu Feng Incident on the families involved in the Case. I have gradually come to understand why my parents wanted to keep me away from the arts: in China, art has often been crushed by politics. Storm under the Sun, through its archival footages and creative materials, aims not only to present the cause and effect of a significant historical event, but to document stories of these families on the margin of history.

-S. Louisa Wei