Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Thrilling Quest to Find the Man Who Took on the Tanks in Tiananmen Square

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Thrilling Quest to Find the Man Who Took on the Tanks in Tiananmen Square

Article excerpt

Byline: Lucy Pavia The Viewer

Chimerica Channel 4, 9pm EVEN with the patchiest knowledge of Chinese history, you'll probably recognise Tank Man the lone figure, plastic shopping bag in each hand, pictured facing off against a line of Chinese army tanks during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, where an estimated 10,000 people were killed.

Who was Tank Man? What made him do something so reckless? Is he still alive? The shot might be a defining moment of 20th-century history but even 30 years later much about it remains a mystery.

This is the jumping-off point for Chimerica. Originally an excellent 2013 Olivier-winning play of the same name by Lucy Kirkwood who has adapted her script for television this updated version of the drama is set during the build-up to the 2016 Clinton-Trump Presidential election. Our protagonist is Lee (Alessandro Nivola), a respected photojournalist for the fictional New York Courier, whose photograph of Tank Man kick-started his career.

We watch as Lee and reporter colleague Mel (played with jaded perfection by Transparent's Cherry Jones) are barred from a Trump rally, where supporters wear "Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required" T-shirts.

But though Trump might be a "f***ing joke" he's also good for traffic, so Lee and Mel's editor packs them off to Beijing to film locals talking on camera about the would-be president, because "the new editor has got the bit between her teeth about online content" (in 2016? Surely not). On the plane they meet Tessa (Sophie Okonedo) a consultant for a US credit card firm who Lee dazzles so much with his Tank Man fame that they join the mile-high club in the loo. More importantly, Lee reconnects with old fixer friend Zhang Lin (Terry Chen), who drops a bombshell by telling Lee he believes he knows who Tank Man is. …

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