Eternal Spring is a Chinese-language animation documentary directed by Canadian director Jason Loftus and produced by Lofty Sky (Canada) with comic artist Guo Jingxiong (Daxiong). Six years in the making, this Chinese animation film was selected to represent Canada in next year’s Academy Awards for Best International Feature Film.
The film centers on Falun Gong’s 2002 hijacking of broadcast television stations in Changchun and China’s continued repression of ethnic and religious minority groups.
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In August 2022, soon after the Canadian Film and Television Association nominated Eternal Spring for the 2023 Academy Awards, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took a series of actions against the film’s creators and comic artist Daxiong, including banning his more than 100 comic books from schools in China.
Nevertheless, the more the CCP suppresses and bans, the more people want to know the truth. A post-80’s fan named Yanting said she saw Eternal Spring in May when it premiered at Lincoln Center for the New York Film Festival. She took a friend to see it again in October when it was officially released in Manhattan cinemas. She felt that “it provided much food for thought.”
Being a frequent movie-goer, Yanting deduced that the criteria for judging a good movie are the following four points: 1. thought-provoking; 2. strong sense of immersion; 3. still touching when reviewed; 4. Oscar influence.
Eternal Spring is just such a film. “I thought it was an anime movie when I watched the trailer,” Yanting remarked. “It is the only animated movie I’ve seen so far that uses long shots, and that kind of shot needs to be drawn on one stroke at a time. In addition, it is 100 percent handmade. No wonder it has taken six years of hard work.”
‘Eternal Spring’ is unlike any film seen before
Yanting thinks that another highlight of Eternal Spring is that it is a live-action documentary. If you are tired of seeing fictional and unrealistic things over the years, the genuineness of the film is excellent for a change. “The movie is presented in a combination of animation, live-action, and archival footage. It is a form that has not been seen before.”
A female audience member, Gina Cassorla, said after viewing: “The film is very moving. It touches my heart… The reality is so harsh, and the film shows it softly, but it is still so touching and beautiful. I love it.”
Neurologist John Robinson and his wife took the train from New Jersey to New York to see Eternal Spring. It was their first movie since the pandemic. Robinson said: “It is a visually beautiful and incredible story, a film everyone needs to know. It should win the best documentary.”
An audience member named Adelmansilla commented on an American movie review site: “As a valuable takeaway, this movie reminds me that true heroes are good, pure, and above and beyond. That strength, most of the time invisible on the surface, can make a profound difference. Carrying this beautiful message throughout the day helps me grow stronger in my kindness, forgiveness, and concern for those around me.”
Canadian filmmaker Amil Niazi wrote in the Globe and Mail that it is “a thrilling, uncompromising film that challenges traditional documentary set-up and finds a brilliantly lighthearted way to tell a twisted hard story.”
Tim Grierson, a senior U.S. film critic, commented on Screen International: “Featuring vivid animation inspired by Daxiong’s drawings, the film is somber and hushed, able to stir emotions without resorting to manipulative tricks.”
Cheri Gaulke, a director and writer, said: “I knew nothing about the film. I just went in to see it. It turns out to be the kind of film I care about and like a lot, very artistic, but at the same time telling a powerful story.”
Peter Tomczyk, a Polish news editor in New York, thought it was a film that penetrated the soul. “It is fascinating, especially at the end, and leaves me bittersweet. It is a sad story, but it touches me so much. The film combines the beauty of humanity and the human experience. Although I’m not in China, it inspires me to do something — no matter how little or where I go.”
After watching Eternal Spring, Natalie Nagel, a bioscientist and art lover commented: “Whether you are Indian, Swedish, African, or Ukrainian, this documentary is for everyone. Teenagers should watch it too. It will make your life better and enriched.”
After viewing, comic book writer Jani Spencer said: “The production team did a great job. They made me fly like a bird in the sky and watch it all. It is a bird’s eye view. It’s great!”
Spencer said the film also gave him the sense of tension of a police film: “Seeing people being chased, arrested, and held by the police because of their beliefs… I can say that this is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. I give this movie five out of five stars.”
Since its premiere in March, Eternal Spring has won at least 14 awards internationally, including the Supreme Award at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival in Australia. The film also received a 99 audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, the online aggregator of American movie and television show reviews.