Bill Nichols, PhD.
American Film Critic and Theoretician
Founder of the Contemporary Study of Documentary Film
“It is of course very impressive and fully deserving of the recognition it has gained. I find the personal, nostalgic tone quite moving and found myself wondering more about the hutongs I have wandered as a tourist that are, as you say, a true home to many, a home slowly turning into “attractions” that preserve the past as the future tramples most of it into oblivion. The influx of new people, new skills and money, and the production of money from the land, not via agriculture but via real estate transaction, does not seem sensitive to the history you celebrate or to the contributions of the hutong dwellers, many of whom are elderly, disposable
to a hungry economy like the hutongs themselves, are you subtly hint at the loss of humanity in all of this. The scenes of personal/community interaction, of meals and rituals and “water fights” that are inclusive, that draw one to another, that forge a community instead of the atomization that has characterized the worst of cities since the mid 19th century, work quite well to suggest what is being lost, ironically, to the extent that communism, communalism, still has any meaning at all apart from top down control. The voice over, the observed moments, the interactions of you and others blend three different modes and place a challenge on the film to marry these modes effectively lest the voice over dominate as information, or confession; the observation dominate as a present without history or the interactions dominate as encounters that stress what others say more than what they do but I think you do a good job of creating a single tone throughout.”