Tientsin Diaries (2006)
DV, B&W, 30:00 minutes
Tientsin Diaries

Tientsin Diaries

Tientsin Diaries

Tientsin Diaries

 


"a film that points to a new direction in documentary filmmaking."
True/False Film Festival

SYNOPSIS
In the 1930’s Westerners in Tientsin’s European concessions lived an exotic adventure largely insulated from the horrors of China’s civil war and Japanese occupation. 'Tientsin Diaries' is a fictional documentary about the courtship of Misha and Natasha, whose Oriental idyll begins to unravel with the outbreak of WWII. Using actors, family photographs and newsreels, the film recreates the lost world of Russian exiles against the backdrop of the disintegration of pre-revolutionary China.

CREDITS
Voice Talent: Emma Jones (Natasha), Chad Jennings (Misha), Mark Chamberlin (Narrator)
Original Music: Semih Tareen (Web site)
Additional music licensed from Associated Production Music
Sound Recording Engineer: Scott Bartlett, Jack Straw Studios, Seattle
Creative Consultant: Palmer Pettersen
Written, directed and edited by Serge Gregory
Funded by a grant from Artist Trust

DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT
“Tientsin Diaries” was inspired my Russian-born parents’ extensive library of photographs of expatriate life in China in the 1930’s and 1940’s. To them, understandably, this was the happiest moment in their lives—when in their 20’s they met, courted and married. Their photos reflected the exotic world of the European settlements in Tientsin and Shanghai. However, interspersed with the images of masquerade balls, country club life, and excursions to temples and shrines, you would get the occasional glimpse—severed heads hanging from lamp posts—of the brutal civil war and Japanese occupation that raged outside their protective bubble and that would eventually take over their lives.

“Tientsin Diaries” dramatizes this conflict between the idyll of colonial life in China and the inexorable clashes that were leading to war and revolution. I didn’t want to make a film that looked back on this period through nostalgia and recollection. I wanted to tell it in the present tense. The approach I took was to appropriate the style of a Ken Burns documentary—still images, newsreels, dramatization of diary entries and letters—but with one big difference: the voices and stories would be fictional, imagined. This, I felt, was the most compelling way to recreate a world that disappeared forever soon after I was born in Tientsin at the end of 1948.