Eternal Spring is a documentary about the hijacking of broadcast television stations in the Chinese city of Changchun in 2002 by members of the Falun Gong religion to counter government narratives about their practice. The film recreates the event 20 years later, with visuals based on the works of comic artist and Falun Gong practitioner Daixong, who fled China in the aftermath of the hijacking. Daixong has complicated feelings about the incident, and in the process of making the documentary grapples with those, meeting with people involved and lending his artistic talent to represent their stories.
Jason Loftus’s feature’s distinctive aesthetic is one of the most immediately striking things about it, combining the visual languages of comic books, video games and cinema to paint a dynamic and engaging portrait of a multifaceted sociopolitical situation and the individual human stories at the centre of it. Daixong’s versatile art style gets to swing with its full weight here, able to depict a range of powerful emotions, from the thrilling drama of the hijacking itself (borrowing a lot from the creative playbook of heist movies) to more tender moments to represent the rose-tinted memories of a beloved home that Daixong and other Falun Gong practitioners cannot return to.
The piece is also structured well to make full use of its strong visuals, seamlessly integrating animated set pieces with interviews and archival footage to make for a constantly compelling and revealing cinematic experience that conveys a lot of information about several important topics without losing any momentum. The process of making the documentary is incorporated into the way it tells its story, with Daixong’s creative journey a key part of the narrative, which allows the piece to remain focused, despite its comprehensive depiction of the hijacking and the events surrounding it, anchoring the information around a solid emotional core.
Overall, Eternal Spring is a great work, representing tough subject matter in sharp detail, while balancing gripping entertainment and comprehensive education effortlessly and sensitively. Bolstered by powerful and vivid visuals and a careful editorial hand, Loftus’s film teaches many important lessons about religious persecution and oppression that are likely to remain with its audience for a long time.
Eternal Spring is released in select cinemas on 21st October 2022.
Watch the trailer for Eternal Spring here: