The Tank Man

About the Film:

On a fateful day in June 1989, the world became fixed on the bold image of a lone man staring down a procession of tanks in Tiananmen Square, Beijing. While trying to unearth the story behind this courageous man, the producers of The Tank Man uncover additional stories about the clash between the communist government of the People's Republic of China and those who advocate for a more open, democratic society. In this film FRONTLINE explores a society in transition 17 years after the demonstrations at Tiananmen Square. China has become open for global business, but it remains closed to a free media and available information.

Watching the Film:

The Tank Man is 90 minutes long. If time permits, teachers can use the film in class or it can be assigned as homework. Discussion questions and appropriate classroom activities are provided in this guide and can be used with or without the film.

A Note to Teachers:

For classes in global history, U.S. history, government, language arts, current events, media studies and art history. Grade levels 9-12.

In this lesson students will evaluate how access to open media can impact how the events of June 4, 1989, in Tiananmen Square are presented. The lesson can be used with or without the film, and can be tailored to suit each class's interests and requirements.

Featured Lesson Plan:

A Picture is Worth How Many (unfiltered) Words?
Students will become familiar with:

Additional Lesson Ideas:

Content from The Tank Man can be applied to the following lesson plans:

How is Media "Free" or "Not Free"?
Students will consider China's rating by the media and human rights watchdog group Freedom House and what factors contribute to this rating.

Two Portraits in Front of Tiananmen Square
Students will examine two oil paintings set in front of Mao Zedong's portrait in Tiananmen Square to uncover important visual cues and consider the social and historical context behind these images.

Literature as a Window into Culture
In this lesson from FRONTLINE's China in the Red documentary, students will explore contemporary examples of banned Chinese literature and consider why these works have been banned.

Additional Resources:

The guide includes this annotated list of relevant Web sites and articles.

Purchasing the Film:

The Tank Man can be purchased from Shop PBS for Teachers. Also, teachers and students can watch the film streamed in its entirety on FRONTLINE's Web site: http://www.pbs.org/frontline/tankman/


Consultants. It was written by Debra Plafker Gutt, Stuyvesant High School, New York, NY. Advisors were Peter Gilmartin of Primary Source, Watertown, MA; Lisa Iverson, Cascade High School, Turner, OR; and Greg Timmons, curriculum writer and educational consultant.