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Screening & Talk | David Bloch: A documentary by Shuibo Wang
Event ShanghART Library, Shanghai 1F, Bldg.10, 2555 Longteng Avenue, Xuhui District, Shanghai
Date: 05.31, 2018

Film Poster

Time: 19:00- 21:50, 2018.05.31 (Tuesday)
Talk Guests:
Wang Shuibo (director)
Wu Liang (writer, critic)
Jiang Yuhui (philosophy professor of East China Normal University)
Annie (curator, art critic)

In the 1930s and 1940s, some 20,000 German and Austrian Jews fled to Shanghai after the ethnic cleansing of Jews by Nazis. Among those who escaped was David Bloch, a young artist. Bloch was born in a small Bavarian town called Floss in 1910. He lost his parents at age one, and suffered from hearing loss due to illness. He went to a school for the deaf in Munich to learn sign language and was admitted to the Academy of Applied Arts in Munich to study printmaking and design. Bloch was once in love with a German girl named Martha. She later gave birth to a baby girl named Lydia. However, because the Nuremberg Laws prohibited marriages between Jews and Germans, they had to separate. On November 9, 1938, Hitler’s Nazi force carried out the notorious violent riot, Kristallnacht, against Jews. Bloch, along with hundreds of thousands of fellow Jewish males, was locked up in the Dachau concentration camp. And after being released, he escaped to Shanghai, then under Japanese occupation, by boat and alone. On this unfamiliar city in the Far East, he received good care from the friendly, warm-hearted Chinese people.

In Shanghai, Bloch didn’t indulge in the revels of the rich and glamorous, he captured moments and scenes reflecting rituals and lifestyles of the poor with a woodcut knife and a paintbrush. At a local deaf-mute party, Bloch met a beautiful Chinese girl named Lily Zheng, they communicated through sign language and discussed their hope for love and peace. In 1946, they got married in Shanghai, and moved to America a few years later. Bloch died in 2002, leaving hundreds of paintings and woodcuts as his legacy, most of which he finished during his 9-year stay in Shanghai.


A few years ago, I found a photo in Shanghai. A photo from the 1940s, of a European man wearing gold-rimmed glasses with a beautiful Shanghai woman. After endless effort and research, we found the descendants of the man and the woman. We interviewed the 60-year-old Gynecologist Dean Bloch in a village by the Hudson River in Upstate New York. He is the son of the pictured David Bloch and Lilly Zheng. We invited Dr. Dean Bloch’s family to Shanghai from America to find traces of her parents’ footsteps. In the outskirt of Germany’s Nuremberg, we found the 80-year-old Lydia Abel, the daughter of David Bloch and his then girlfriend Martha. Who is David Bloch was filmed in Shanghai, Jiaxing, Munich, Nuremberg and New York, during a time span of 3 years. Through Bloch’s autobiography and memories from his family and friends, this documentary unveils the life of a German Jewish artist and concentration
camp survivor.

This documentary film received long-lasting support from Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum.


About the Director:
Shuibo Wang is a Guggenheim Fellow and Oscar-Nominated filmmaker. He is associated with the NFB Canada. He is also the founding director of Film & Media Art Department at Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.


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