Petition (2009): Chinese Documentary about Abuses

Chinese Documentary

Zhao Liang’s “Petition” belongs to a new wave of Chinese documentaries over the past decade centering on various social and political transformations that have occurred as the country goes through economic power in global terms, including the price paid by its ordinary citizens.  Shot over the course of more than a decade, “Petition” is among the strongest of these heroic attempts.
In 1996, Zhao began documented the ‘petitioners’ who come from all over China to make complaints in Beijing about abuses committed by their local authorities. Gathered near the complaint offices, living in most cases in makeshift shelters, the complainants usually have to wait for months or even years to obtain some sort of justice.
The disenfranchised citizens include peasants thrown off their land, workers from factories which have gone into liquidation, small homeowners who have seen their houses demolished but received no compensation, they pursue justice with impressive stubbornness, facing the most brutal intimidation and most often finding that their hopes are in vain.
Some critics have compared these non-fictional works to the literature of Emile Zola or Charles Dickens, due to their social realism, occasionally lyrical tone, and strong emotional pull.
“Petition,” like other similar works, reveals the persistent contradictions of Chinese society and culture as they undergo major and powerful socio-economic expansion. Ultimately, this probing exposé serves as a testament to the power of grassroots resistance in a society in which governmental and other bureaucratic forces seem indifferent to the plight of common, ordinary people.