Political chaos, competing warlords and revolution were China’s turbulent political landscape during the 1930s.
Helen Foster Snow, a Utah native, came to call China home during that time, and she played an important role in documenting the birth of modern China as she grew to become a writer, activist and humanitarian.
The documentary Helen Foster Snow: Witness to Revolution chronicles her life and accomplishments and was shown on campus as part of the International Center’s Global Spotlight: China. One of the film’s directors, Eric Hyer, a professor of political science at BYU, came to present the documentary and conduct a discussion.
The film documents Snow’s life. After deciding to live abroad, Snow took a job in China. She soon became sympathetic to the student movement and became a foreign correspondent for many large news entities. Her work documented the struggling Communist party’s battle with the Nationalist party.
“Helen and the students, that’s what it was all about,” Hyer said. “Her family contacted BYU and me about donating all of her materials, writings and photographs. I attended her memorial service in China in 1997. That’s what motivated me to try to do something with what we had. I thought, let’s do a movie. I knew nothing about doing movies.”
Much of the film was shot on location in China. Hyer and the project were met amicably as they interviewed many of the students who became key political figures after the revolution. Snow had garnered their respect and they spoke of her with fondness.
“Because of the China focus, Eric has been instrumental in helping us develop programming and giving us advice,” said Danny Damron, director of the International Center.
Snow’s story paints a detailed picture of what life was like for the students and the people of China during this time. Life after China, for Snow, was lived largely in obscurity. She eventually returned to writing and published several books.
The Global Spotlight program highlights one country per school year. The spotlight on China has featured topics ranging from economics to religion.
“There will be some interesting stuff coming up,” Damron said. “We will be having a person from the CIA coming out and talking about cyber security in China. There will be some interesting discussions.”
For more information visit www.uvu.edu/international/