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Generation Tian’anmen

Magnum photographer Patrick Zachmann’s trilogy on the student protests on Tian’anmen Square in 1989, and the impact of this event on the attitudes of an old and a new generation of Chinese.

Magnum photographer Patrick Zachmann happened to be in Beijing in May 1989, working on a reportage on the Chinese diaspora, when unexpectedly and over a period of weeks, hundreds of thousands of people gathered on Tian’anmen (the Square of Heavenly Peace) to protest against the regime.

On June 4, the army brutally crushed the protest, killing hundreds of people. But Zachmann’s documentary is not primarily an account of this historic event. In the first of the three short documentaries, he talks about what led up to that fateful day, while in the third he makes a short visit to the Tian’anmen Square of today.

But the second part is what it is really all about for Zachmann: in this film, he interviews a young Chinese woman studying in Paris and an older Chinese man who protested on the square in 1989 and later fled to France.

Zachmann asks them to share their thoughts about family, democracy, being Chinese, and the dreams of 1989. The interviews and reflections on their ideas produce a sense of transience and insight into new generations who view the world with new eyes. In this way, Zachmann reveals something of the cyclical course of history itself.

Project details

Year of development :2009
Created by:Patrick Zachmann
With:Jean-Baptiste Mihout, Greg Corsaro, Upian
Full project credits

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