Antonioni’s China

Antonioni with his girlfriend Enrica Fico, who served as his assistant director on Chung Kuo, Cina (1973) and who later became his wife.

In 1972, between the filming of ‘Zabriskie Point’ and ‘The Passanger’, Michelangelo Antonioni traveled to the People’s Republic of China to make a documentary at the invitation of then premier Zhou Enlai. Based on the concluding scene of Zabriskie Point (the explosion depicting the destruction of consumer society) they might have thought that in the spirit of the Maoist Cultural Revolution Antonioni would present the achievements of People’s China in an appropriate way.

The end result was a three-part, more than three-hour documentary entitled ‘Chung Kuo, Cina’. However, the film did not gain recognition and it was banned in China for 40 years. Antonioni was branded an enemy of the Chinese people and under pressure from Beijing, several foreign screenings of the film were cancelled.