Inside the Tank at Tiananmen Square

| 6/4/2009 10:54:02 AM

In China's Tiananmen Square today, police officers chased television cameras, blocking shots of the square with opened umbrellas on the 20th anniversary of the massacre there. It's a futile effort, of course, as front pages and homepages worldwide remember the spontaneous and heroic protest of "Tank Man" with images, video, and more of the endless speculation on his fate.

All we know of the tank driver from the video is that he was unwilling to murder this man who stood in his way. I've always imagined the tank driver in a panic inside his war machine—pushed as he was to a point of critical decision: stop (Tank Man lives)or go (Tank Man dies).

A film selected by the 2008 Pangea Day film festival puts us inside the tank where, in this version at least, there is indeed panic. It's a reminder of something almost impossible to glean from the Tank Man images now burned on our brains: This was not so much a standoff between a man and a machine as a meeting of men feeling their way through an unusual moment with nothing but their base instincts to guide them.

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