“Buried” Yet Committed to Memory
Taken as a whole, Wang Libo’s latest documentary offers a model at examining official responses to disasters in China. Centered on narration by scientists and researchers who were on the frontlines of the Tangshan earthquake, the tracing back of events begins with questions that arose after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan Province. “Buried” refers to not only the victims buried in the collapsed buildings, but also the botched cover-up by authorities. “Documentaries should bear a connection to the life we live now,” Wang once said. With this emphasis in mind, the documentary is deployed as an investigative medium.
Zhang Qingzhou, a native Hebei resident and author of a controversial report titled, “Tangshan, A Warning from History,” starts the documentary by highlighting an official record from the 1976 earthquake replete with inconsistencies. Wang extends the line of questioning by interviewing seismologists in Beijing and researchers ranging from the Qinglong County Science Committee to the former Director of the Tangshan Earthquake Office. The well-researched documentary compiles a huge amount of oral accounts from personal experience, documents issued at the time and numerous official statistics and charts.