The Gate of Heavenly Peace

The inner workings of the Tiananmen Square massacre and its aftermath.

Premiere Date
June 4, 1996
180 minutes
Funding Initiative
Series and Special Projects
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    1996 SFFilm Festival-Golden Spire, Film & Video: History
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    1996 International Documentary Association (IDA)-Distinguished Achievement Award
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    1996 Banff International Television Festival-Best Social & Political Documentary
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    1996 Peabody Awards-George Foster Peabody Award
  • Co-Producer

    Carma Hinton

    Carma Hinton was born in China to American parents and was raised and educated there until 1971; Chinese is her first language and culture. She is a scholar as well as a filmmaker. She received a BA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1976, and a Ph.D. in art history from Harvard University. She is a Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Visual Culture and Show more Chinese Studies at George Mason University, and has also taught courses in Chinese language, history, and culture at Swarthmore, Middlebury, Wellesley, and Northeastern. For her work in film, she was awarded a Rockefeller Intercultural Film/Video Fellowship in 1988. Show less

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    Richard Gordon

    Richard Gordon has been involved with numerous projects in China as director of photography or producer. His credits include work for National Geographic, the National Film Board of Canada, NOVA, the independent feature documentary Distant Harmony: Pavarotti in China, and the PBS series China in Revolution. For his previous work, he was awarded a Show more Guggenheim Fellowship in 1986 and a Rockefeller Intercultural Film/Video Fellowship in 1988. Show less

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    The Film

    In the spring of 1989, students and workers gathered in mass protest in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and set in motion “the most watched but least understood story of the 20th century.”

    The Gate of Heavenly Peace is a feature-length documentary about the 1989 protest movement, reflecting the drama, tension, humor, absurdity, heroism, and many tragedies of the six weeks from April to June in 1989. The film reveals how the hard-liners within the government marginalized moderates among the protesters (including students, workers, and intellectuals), while the actions of radical protesters undermined moderates in the government. Moderate voices were gradually cowed and then silenced by extremism and emotionalism on both sides.

    It is a sobering tale, for faced with the binary opposition between Communists and anti-Communists, there has been little middle ground left for the rational and thoughtful proponents of positive reform in China. By giving these ignored voices their proper place in history, The Gate of Heavenly Peace reveals an ongoing debate in China concerning the importance of personal responsibility and moral integrity, the need, as Vaclav Havel has put it, to “live in the truth.”