All Eyes and Ears

A film by Vanessa Hope
75 minutes, color, USA, 2015
DVD includes: Closed Captions, Chapter Markers, Bonus Scenes

Synopsis

A timely exploration into the complex links between the U.S. and China, Vanessa Hope’s documentary feature debut evokes the personal and the international with its accent on diplomacy, activism and individual experience. Interspersed with remarks from journalists and experts, ALL EYES AND EARS interweaves the stories of U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, his adopted Chinese daughter, Gracie Mei, and blind legal advocate Chen Guangcheng as they find purpose, identity and resolve amid the two nations’ evolving relationship.

The film follows Huntsman and his family during his tenure as ambassador. As he contends with achieving diplomatic goals in balance with the two countries’ interests in national security and economic growth, teenager Gracie gathers a more intimate understanding of her own cross-­‐cultural identity. Meanwhile, Hope traces Chen Guangcheng’s journey — from being under house arrest to his highly publicized asylum at the U.S. Embassy — highlighting the activist’s thoughts on China’s ambitions as an emergent world power. ALL EYES AND EARS adroitly illuminates the delicate, intersecting layers of history, ideology and politics at play behind current diplomatic maneuvers.

Reviews

“A rare, intimate glance into the life of an American diplomat—both the professional challenges and, in Huntsman’s case, the distinctively personal family story. The film also illuminates some of the more troubling aspects of Chinese society today, drawing on the observations of Western China scholars as well as the keen vision of a Chinese legal activist whose arrival at the US embassy and negotiated departure from his homeland demonstrate the tough job all face in managing US-China relations.”

Avery Goldstein, David M. Knott Professor of Global Politics and International Relations, Political Science Department Director, Center for the Study of Contemporary China,
University of Pennsylvania

“The period 2009 to 2011 can now be seen as the twilight of one era and the dawn of another. But across the end of President Hu’s term in office and the start of President Xi’s there are some issues that stay the same, for all the differences: the primacy of the relationship for China with the US, and the many sticking points in that relationship. This fascinating film, which was born from excellent access to Ambassador John Huntsman during his time in China, shows on a very personal level how someone at the heart of the relationship over this period navigated the various perilous shoals and rocks in the relationship, and how they maintained a positive, optimistic outlook.  Anyone interested in the most important relationship in the world today should see this charming and engaging documentary.”

Kerry Brown, Professor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute,
King’s College, London,  Associate Fellow, Chatham House, London

“Vanessa Hope’s film “All Eyes and Ears” brings all the different dimensions of America’s contentious relationship with China together in one film.  The students in my course on Chinese politics at Berkeley found it a fascinating complement to their academic readings. Students were thrilled to have Ms. Hope visit our class to answer questions about the film and talk about some of her harrowing experiences operating as an independent filmmaker in China, calling it “exciting” and “one of the most memorable times I have had at Berkeley.”

Peter Lorentzen, Assistant Professor of Political Science, UC Berkeley

“I am so glad I got an early opportunity to see All Eyes and Ears — I loved it and I eagerly await its publication to a wider audience. I especially appreciated the detachment with which it told the personal story of the Huntsman family – and tied the personal story of the ambassador’s family in China to China’s extraordinary development, its emergence as a major player on the world stage, and to the changes this has brought for China’s international relations. I thought the film very successfully gave a voice to the family’s ‘Chinese’ daughter, Gracie, letting her weave the theme of truth and truthfulness into the story told by the film.”

Eva Pils, Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London

“As a powerful and energetic personal video diary, All Eyes and Ears takes us on the deftly-woven journey of Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to China from 2009 and 2011, a robust and eventful period that marked the rapid rise of China to international power. Through the refreshing narrative guidance of Gracie, his teen daughter adopted from China, we follow this diplomat’s family as they traverse the streets and the country, and navigate the charming and volatile political, social and cultural landscape while advocating and protecting American interests and values in China.

Equally compelling for native Chinese viewers and outsiders alike, the film reveals the complex and sometimes paradoxical image of China while sidestepping cultural and political stereotypes. The filmmaker’s extensive reach has enabled viewers to hear the diverse views from a coterie of respected China experts. Joined by well-known Chinese scholars and courageous human rights activists, they explore the most pressing and relevant issues facing China and the US, from economic development models and trade to political governance and human rights.

Also in stunning vignettes from this travelogue, the film features arresting cultural scenes, from the hutongs (alleys) in Beijing to the Potala Palace and villages in Tibet. It also captures a darker side – China’s pervasive political surveillance.

At a time when we are trying to see beyond the political theater unfolding with the incoming White House administration, the film showcases the challenging and nuanced efforts by diplomats like Jon Huntsman, serving as a timely reminder of the importance of wise diplomacy.”

Wenguang Huang is journalist, writer and translator who is the author of ‘The Little Red Guard’ and ‘A Death in the Lucky Holiday Hotel: Murder, Money and an Epic Power Struggle in China.’


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