Discreet Identities

1996 - Documentary - DV & Beta - Colour - 26'

Camera by Simon Arazi & Laurent Van Lancker

Sound by Simon Arazi & Laurent Van Lancker

Editing by Pascal Besnard & Laurent Van Lancker

Directed by Simon Arazi & Laurent Van Lancker

Produced by Uppercut & Polymorfilms
in Association with Triangle 7

Distributed by Wallonie Image Production


The province of Yunnan boasts China's highest concentration of different ethnic nationalities.
The Hui Muslims particularly stand out; less so in number, but for their strong sense of community and independence.
Like all the other ethnic and religious minorities during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the Hui have experienced their faire share of brutal prosecution and humiliation.
Condemned by the extremist Gang of Four as "little nation chauvinism" and "superstition", every adherence to religious or folklorist ethnic beliefs and practise was seen as a subversion to the communist idea. The post-Mao era put an end to this insane zealotry and right through to the Chinese Glasnost of the mid-nineties, the Hui have received support and modest funds to rebuild their community and their destroyed Koranic schools.
"Discreet Identities" compares the lives of the Muslim community in Kunming, the province's capital, and a small village, Najaying. Whereas the younger generation feels itself wavering to the influences of western mores and the entrepreneurial aggressiveness of urban Kunming, the Muslims in the village reinforce their identity through a dedicated education system and economic self-government.
Several protagonists of the film had been repeatedly imprisoned during the cultural revolution for their intellectual leadership with the community and refused to talk about that experience on camera as well as voice any form of critique towards the current government.
Despite a period of political reforms, any religious practice in China lives on a precarious tolerance. Keeping their religious and cultural identity in low profile, the Yunnan Muslims practice their faith in a state of exile and incertitude.

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