Friday, May 9, 2014
I See the Mulberries but Where is the Forest?
Mulberry Child, a 2011 documentary about Jian Ping, a young girl who came of age during Mao's great leap forward and Mao's cultural revolution, on PBS's Asia Pacific Heritage Month. Like so many documentaries of this ilk, however, Mulberry Child, which is apparently based on a memoir of the same name, fails to put events in post WWII China into broader contexts, in this case the broader context of Western imperialism. It should not be surprising, by the way, that this is the same problem with the Western media coverage of the current crisis in the Ukraine. Mulberry Child has two other major problems as well. First there's that pesky Western penchant for personal interest stories, a genre that seems to demand the disappearance of broader contexts, and second, that pesky documentary tendency for reenactments, a penchant I find jarring, ahistorical, fiction like, and unfortunate. All this said, I still recommend this documentary. But watch it with a critical sense of history in mind.