Thursday, June 12, 2008

THE CHILDREN OF HUANG SHI - movie whitewashes story of western paedophile in Wartime China

Critics of The Children of Huang Shi have trashed the new movie on its technical execution - bad script, bad acting, etc. But all agree that Chow Yun Fat steals the picture. I think the critics miss the point entirely. This isn't just a bad film. It's a patently dishonest suppression of historical events which shaped modern China. The film substitutes an orphanage and the rescue of innocents, for the reality - a school for incorrigible boys where pedophilia was a fixture.
Should we care? Well wouldn't we all howl if Canadian movie producers attempted to shoot a script set at the troubled Mount Cashel Boys Home in the 1970s, but was totally silent about the sexual abuse of kids? Wouldn't the media give the Director a hard time if he attempted a patriotic wartime drama with one of our Native Residential Schools as an establishing shot, but ignored what went on inside? How then does Ottawa born Director Roger Spottiswoode believe he can get away with travesty. In his Children of Huang Shi he whitewashed events in far off China which equate with the worst of Mount Cashel abuses.

Roger Spottiswoode, Director of The Children of Huang Shi in Chicago on May 23 to promote his film. The shameful and callous Australia-China co-production whitewashes history for the sake of making a buck. The true story of a Chinese school of horrors, run by a white paedophile and funded by western charities, has been oblitered by a Bio-pic gone very, very wrong. (Patrick McDonald photo)

In interview Spottiswoode claims that the gestation period for this film was eight years. Really? Then how in the hell did he get the story so wrong?
"I try not to make up too much and in some cases, I don’t make up anything at all. It is a balancing act in that you are trying to tell a story of things that really happened and are trying to stay out of the fiction business but at the same time, you have to make it as compelling as possible". The Spottiswoode treatment involves hanging a completely bogus story, and a cast of composite characters, on the shoulders of one man who actually existed. There certainly was a George Aylwin Hogg in China between 1938-1945, and he did work briefly for U.P.I. That is just about as biographical as this film ever gets. He did not witness the Rape of Nanking.
The real George Aylwin Hogg in a photo sent to the publisher of his China memoir. Hogg's book gave broad hints of the paedophilia he witnessed at the school run in Shensi by a notorious New Zealand pervert.

The Children of Huang Shi asks us to accept George Hogg deposited at an "orphanage" in war blasted Shensi province, left entirely to his own devices, and unable to speak Chinese. He is confronted by a feral pack of Chinese youths, all lice bitten war orphans emotionally crippled by their loss or else made prone to violent rages by the Japanese atrocities they witnessed. With patience and love George Hogg "Mr. Pig" performs a miracle. He wins the boys trust (and a Guinness record for learning to speak Chinese) and in a thrilling anti-war gesture he leads the orphans on an epic journey through the mountains, to save them from being drafted into the Kuomintang Army.

The truth is more harrowing, certainly to the careers of myth mongers worldwide. George Hogg had fallen in with Rewi Alley, a New Zealand born operative in a busy espionage ring run in Shanghai by Soong Ching Ling (the bitter widow of Sun Yat Sen). Madame Soong, Alley and their circle had set up a network of training centres, or Chinese Industrial Cooperatives (Indusco), which became the pet charity of Madame Roosevelt and Henry and Clare Boothe Luce. The C.I.C. was a mecca for western do gooders and George Hogg found a home.

Rewi Alley, a New Zealand Runagate of the first water. A productive member of Madame Sun's espionage network, the Chinese Communists allowed Alley to satisfy his taste for sex with boys in exchange for his total loyalty, his expertise in fund raising and his flare for propaganda.

In his memoir I SEE A NEW CHINA, George Hogg gave a few broad hints of Rewi Alley's pedophilia, while assuring readers that he was a great proletarian hero. "The main distinctive feature of Rewi's cave in Shuangshipu is exactly the same as that of his former house in Shanghai - that at any time out of school hours it is filled with boys. ... Boys doing gymnastics off Rewi's shoulders or being held upside down. Boys being given enemas, or rubbing sulphur ointment into each others scabies. ... Boys toasting bare bottoms against the stove (the scar across Rewi's own nether portions testifies to his own indulgence in this form of amusement). Boys pulling the hair on Rewi's legs, or fingering the generous proportions of the foreigners nose."

To Alley's delight scores of boys consented to sex and, like most predators, he managed to conceal his crimes. Or did he? Much was made, then and now, about the fact that seven "headmasters" in twelve months had preceded George Hogg's posting to the C.I.C. school at Shuangshihpu (the alleged abandoned orphanage in the movie). It is quite possible that some of Hogg's predecessors could not stomach Alley's urge to corner students and poke his hand into their shorts. One Rewi Alley biographer argued that he was just a homosexual and NOT a paedophile. Oh... O.K. then.

The "orphanage" created for Spottiswoode's by Chinese set designers simply never existed. And there were no orphans. I'll let Hogg tell it:

"The co-ops... sent their problem cases - usually semi-educated middle class boys who had failed to adapt themselves to worker conditions when their families fell on hard times after 1937. These boys were filled either with consuming self-pity or with burning ambition to use the school as a stepping stone toward long-fingernailed office jobs. ... Nobody quite knew what the school was for, but the boys and the masters themselves both grew to have a sneaking idea that it was some kind of badly organized foreign charity..." As far as I can determine, not a single word of Hogg's memoir is represented in this movie which purports to recreate his China experience. How's that for the claim "Based on a true story". Hogwash!

I must now return this Chinese made DVD to the student who lent it for review. Mike Chuang, if you're sad I don't share your enthusiasm, forgive me! I did at least enjoy all that lovely Chinese scenery. Most of the reviews online are also very hard on the film, but for entirely different reasons. As Lavar Burton concludes on Reading Rainbow... "Don't just take my word on it."

Postscript - I visited the Children of Huang Shi Wiki page and inserted a link to this Blog article. It survived just two days before a brainless Wiki-crow deleted it. That is the fundamental problem with wikis - the dicks of the world, the academics as well as dropouts, post their jellied thoughts and then become full time wiki guardians, pouncing on any dissenting viewpoint.


UPDATE July 6 - I just read the comments left by a Rewi Alley supporter who believes I have been unfair to his Socialist hero. Alley was first and foremost a COMINTERN agent working in Madame Soong's network. His later involvement in Baillie schools allowed him to become a major fundraiser for the Reds, and to pass easily through military lines. The fact that he had a very dark hidden life as a rampant homosexual and child molester just added layers of deception to his makeup.

One of the few investigative biographies of the quirky Kiwi is FRIEND OF CHINA - THE MYTH OF REWI ALLEY . Here is a review written by Canadian author Douglas Brown.

My criticism of Roger Spottiswoode role as film director underscored his boast of having done exhaustive research on Hogg. That is a bogus claim. The fact is that Rewi Alley, working as a professional propagandist, constantly claimed the accomplishments of other Westerners in China as his own. The fact that Rewi Alley supporters, most especially his fan club in New Zealand, refuse to reference George Hogg's memoir I SEE A NEW CHINA in their promotions, shows that the cracks are at last beginning to widen. My Blog was a negative review of the film, which is why a dishonest Wiki crow kicked my link off the film's Wiki page. The fact is that a small clique of "Old China Hands" spent their latter years polishing their own Red apples, and relentlessly erasing better men and women from the historical record. That is a demonstrable fact, but beyond the scope of the Blog article.

The accusation made by "Mike" is that I was bashing Communism in my film review. If that was my motive I would have trashed a few of the "dramatic" moments of the film which were ludicrous. (Item - Chinese Koumintang army officers stuff their men into boxcars and lock all the doors. As the Japs begin strafing and bombing the station the cowardly KMT officers flee. A Red guerrilla officer chooses to ignore the strafing and unlocks the boxcars under fire, thus showing Red compassion for a bitter enemy. Eeeeyuck!)

LITTLE DEVILS - Item - in the movie Hogg's given motive for taking the "orphans" on the dangerous journey over the mountain was to deny their service to Chiang's army. In fact the largest intake of Siao Kuei or "Little Devils" (dubbed "Wild Boys" by the Shanghai press ) was by the Communists and not the Nationalists. The Eighth Route Army alone had more than 20,000 of them. Siao Kuei ranged in age from 11 to 16 and were noncombatants. By 16 they were deemed politically reliable and inducted as Red Fighters.)

Since Communism was vanquished from China almost two decades ago (it is now a fascist dictatorship of the classical model) it is a waste of my sweat to stir old "anti-Communist" rhetoric. I'm an honest Blogger and not a propagandist or film promoter.

I did find it amusing that Mr. Spottiswoode came back thinking the Chinese were in his corner. Even before a print of his new movie hit Canadian shores, Chinese were distributing the DVD here in Vancouver for $2 bucks. The DVD was high. It's the Canadian director's contribution which is poor.


Mike said...

It's a pity that your obsessions with anti-communism and pornographers have ruined an otherwise readable review of this very fictionalised "true story" of George Hogg. I met Rewi twice, once in China and once in Australia, and I'm not convinced by your quotation of a passage from Hogg's book describing boys warming themselves and administering required treatments for hygiene. Pretty bloody circumstantial to me! I'm pasting in my commeents on the film:


Jane and I saw a preview last night of the film released in Australia under the title Children of the Silk Road. It begins today at the Palace Nova in Rundle Street. The film is a largely fictionalised and “Hollywoodised” account of how Englishman George Hogg helped to found the Shandan Bailie School during the War of Resistance to Japan in China.

Despite its distortions and omissions the film has a very positive portrayal of Hogg, is quite honest about the corruption of the Kuomintang, the atrocities of the Japanese, and avoids stereotyping its only Communist character played by Chow Yun Fat (although it does make him unbelievably fluent in English).

The distortions centre on the relationship between Hogg and a beautiful blond-haired and blue-eyed nurse. Her character is based on that of Anglican missionary nurse Kathleen Hall, a New Zealander, who smuggled medicines to the Communist Eighth Route Army and who nursed Hogg back to health after he contracted typhus.

The major omission is of any reference to the politics of the work in which Hogg was involved with another New Zealander, Rewi Alley. Together they founded a school for the training of boys in skilled trades that would enable them to work in the movement for Chinese Industrial Cooperatives established under the auspices of Dr Sun Yat-sen’s widow Mme. Soong Qingling. This was an elementary form of socialist organisation for which there was such enormous enthusiasm by its participants that US military observers took its Chinese name “Gonghe” and coined the term “gung-ho”.

When Hogg died of tetanus in 1945, it was Rewi Alley that was at his side, reading at Hogg’s request, passages from the Communist Manifesto.

If the film inspires viewers to tap into the available materials on the real life of George Hogg, Rewi Alley and Kathleen Hall it will have served a very useful purpose. Certainly a number of on-line comments indicate that people who have seen the film intend to do just that.

In addition to the links below, accurate information on Hogg can also be found in Rewi Alley’s At 90: Memoirs of My China Years and Tom Newnham’s He Mingqing: The Life of Kathleen Hall, both published by the New World Press, Beijing.

Unknown said...

What an extraordinarily mean spirited and small minded reading of Hogg's diary passage you indulge in. Beyond your own lurid fantasies about what Hogg's entry might imply, do you have one skerrick of ACTUAL EVIDENCE that Alley was a paedophile? If so, please make it available, so that your theories can be judged by open minded people.

Graeme Tuckett.
Wellington. New Zealand.

V.XIII said...

I have no doubt what you say is true, when I was a child I always knew, eventually, every white motherfucker would put his hands on me, eventually. People who do this, dont realize, the damge it does to a person. You can never ever have a normal sexual relationship, you will always have it there to remember. and remember you do, disgusting perverts. I have no doubt this man was a pedophile, I can recognise them as soon as I see their faces....

Unknown said...

Some people think they can spot a pedophile on site. I find that difficult to believe. many pedophiles surround themselves with young people but also do much to cover their tracks. What may seem as purely helping a child with hygiene can indeed be a "moment" for the pedophile to become aroused. Schools are a common place for such people to end up because they are in authority and for the most part out of site. To be a head master at a school for feral children would be very viable for a pedophile. Yes the evidence is circumstantial most convicting evidence for pedophiles can be circumstantial at least in part. This loathsome behavior is not new and has been around a long time and was often cloaked in secrecy and embarrassment. Most people would never admit that such atrocities happened to them. Yes there are inconsistencies in the film as with many historical movies it is neatened up When ever a movie such as this comes on stage it cause many people to dig deeper and find the fuller truth.
The director makes movies to make money. A historian watches a film to see the truth that it holds. It shows the occupation of China during WWII. It paints a good picture of the cruel world the Chinese orphans lived in. It showed how one man had compassion. It show the respect that sever boys had for this one man. Quality of acting set aside, the story was good at its basic level.
We will never know for sure if this school was a place for a pedophile got his thrills and we may never know. Sex crimes unfortunately are a huge part of all wars. Some crimes are redressed most are not and die with the silent.
Very few movies are historically totally accurate. N.E.W.