A Chinese director hopes his documentary about the deaths of hundreds of
children in the collapse of a shoddily built school during the Sichuan
earthquake will provoke answers, but doesn't expect any soon.
The devastating May tremor in southwest China killed 80,000 people. Many were
children who had been napping or were at their desks in schools that crumbled
while other buildings stood firm.
China vowed to punish those responsible after aggrieved parents blamed their
children's deaths on substandard construction stemming from corruption and
greed. No prosecutions have been reported yet, and families have been pressured
into dropping their complaints against local officials.
Who Killed Our Children?, a feature-length documentary by 39-year-old
director Pan Jianlin, records the anguish of parents whose children were
entombed within the ruins of the middle school of Muyu, a village in the hill
country of Sichuan.
"People have contacted my relatives and friends and told them to put pressure
on me to stop my work," said Pan, whose film challenges the official story,
which focused mainly on the heroism of soldiers who rushed to the rescue of
Pan, detained for two days when he returned to Sichuan in June for more
research, said he can't really answer the question posed in the film's title. He
worries it will never be clear.
"I don't know how many children died, but I know that they died wastefully,"
said Pan. "I'm absolutely certain the government has an unshirkable
Pan, who went to Sichuan to help with relief work like thousands of other
civilians, said quake damage in Muyu was mild, but the school had been reduced
to "just a pile of bricks."