Talk Gives Insight on China Following Documentary
By Robert LaRosa
CSI held a discussion of the Chinese film “Once Upon A Time in Bussiere’s Garden,” with director Zhang Tongdao following a screening of the film at the Center for the Arts.
The film documents the life of French physician, Jean Augustin Bussiere and the 40 years he spent in China working as the physician of the president of the Republic of China.
The film tells his story about the decisions he faced while living in China: he had to leave China without his wife, or stay and change his nationality.
The film’s focus was literally buried for 60 years before being dug up by Jean Bussiere’s son, who also helped Tongdao with supplying the material to complete his project.
Director Zhang Tongdao wanted to bridge two very different worlds together with the film by connecting China and the West (Europe and North America). He wanted to show that China’s leaders actually made a contribution towards their country and at the same time tell the story of a man that many have never heard of.
Ironically, audiences in China didn’t know Bussiere’s story, but the citizens of France were well aware of his existence. Bussiere and the theme that follows him throughout the film is restarting. How many times can a man stop and restart his life?
“This is something that moves me” Tongdao said. “People like him should not be forgotten. That’s what motivated me to make this.”
Over three thousand pieces of evidence ranging from photographs to documents from Bussiere’s time helped bring this film together. The film took about a year and a half to finalize, but the research alone took roughly nine months to sort out.
Tangdao hopes that western audiences enjoy his film because Chinese documentaries do not sit well with the director.
“I find them so boring,” said Tangdao. “American cinema will bring all world media together.”
Traveling was a huge part of the film since Tangdao wanted to film the locations where Bussiere lived and worked. Forty percent of the film takes place in France and the other sixty percent is filmed in Bussiere’s personal garden in China.
Watching this film really gives you an insight on this man’s life and his importance to the Chinese government as he helped heal and keep their leaders alive. While at the same time the viewer takes part in retracing his life step by step.
The film shows a man who should be in the history books but isn’t, and finally gets the justice he deserves. This film also takes a look into the world of China and how it isn’t exactly what the media portrays it as.
The crew consisted of four key members which is absurd considering how unbelievably professional the film looks.
The film isn’t complete just yet, as Tangdao admitted that he still has a lot of documents to go through and more information to uncover.
“Would you like to see this documentary kept this way or turned into a full length feature?” the director asked. “There’s still more to the story that has [yet] to be uncovered.”