After meeting with my mentor Teacher Pat last Thursday, I have decided to take a detour from my study on literature under communism and explore the threat of censorship in storytelling. In the wake of local governments’ interference with freedom of press and speech, many people’s stories of hardships are either hidden or distorted. Through this perspective, I have examined a new type of struggle among people. What’s more, this aspect of knowledge helps me to be more prepared for the future interviews I conduct with family members who experienced the Cultural Revolution.
Over this past weekend, out of Teacher Pat’s recommendation, I watched the documentary Censored Voices, directed by Israeli filmmaker Mor Lousy. This film depicts the soldiers’ anguish in the Six-Day War of 1967, a historical event in which Israel defeated the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan and expanded its territory. After the war ended, in search for a series of first-hand experience in battlefields, author Amos Oz and editor Avraham Shapira recorded conversations with soldiers who just returned home. Their focus was on the soldiers’ emotions rather than their achievements. The Israeli army, however, permitted only 30 percent of the recordings to be released at that time. Until recently, director Mor Lousy discovered these censored conversations and decided to publish them in order to reframe the victorious narrative of war in 1967.
The soldiers’ recounts of the war were filled with fear, horror and loathing. One soldier commented on his ruthless commander who instructed them to “show no mercy. Kill as many as possible.” Another returning soldiers left a profound remark that “war complicated them in a way that will be very hard to solve.” They were all confused, yet surprised by their calmness in shooting. One of the soldiers even felt that he was shooting at an amusement part, trying to win a prize and target at human beings as if they were inanimate objects. Another veterans said, “We’re not murderers, but it the war, we all became murderers.” Sadness was delivered throughout the entire film. One soldier recalled the moment when he discovered a photo of two beautiful children amongst the belongings of a dead Egyptian officer. After the soldiers noticed the lost of humanity in the battlefields, they were ashamed because they carried themselves as patriotic heroes when they first entered the war. Equipped with the depressing voices of veterans, this film unfolds a personal insight on viewing the realities of wars.
Mor Lousy, Amos Oz, and Avraham Shapira have further inspired me to conduct interviews and compile a short piece of writing in resemblance of my family members’ stories. It leads me to witness the greatness of personal narratives in formulating our worldview. Without this film, many of us cannot be aware of the soldiers’ torment and the destructive impacts of wars. Storytelling empowers people as it opens up conversations, informs the public of unknown narratives, and exchanges thoughts across different groups of people. It gives the victims an outlet to express their grievances and the perpetrators a chance to explain their motives.
Even though censorship is still a burden on the shoulders of many people in China, artists such as Mo Yan and Ai Weiwei are constantly seeking opportunities to publicize their concerns and criticism over the government’s stance on democracy and human rights. I hope to find a way to collect these unknown stories. They do not have to be published now, maybe later in the future, but it is worthwhile to unleash some of previously censored voices. Therefore, I am immensely excited to announce that, in the following two weeks, I have scheduled two interviews. One of them is with my grandmother who was born in 1949, the year the People’s Republic of China was established, and experienced the Cultural Revolution, and the other is with a family friend, a well-known scholar in Beijing. I am looking forward to these interviews and the information that I can gather from them!
Censored Voices. Dir. Mor Loushy. KNow Productions, 2015. DVD.