The story of David Hawkins, the youngest of 21 Americans who ‘chose China’ at the end of the Korean conflict.

Combining archival footage with new oral history interviews, the film brings to life Hawkins’ remarkable experiences during this crucial period in the history of ‘mind control’. It considers the ambiguities of autobiography, using the various, intertwined versions of Hawkins’s story to shed light both on Cold War politics and the changing ways in which we interpret, and pathologise, personal trauma.

David Hawkins: A Battle of the Mind was shortlisted for the AHRC’s Best Research Film of the Year Award 2017. The judges said: “This is a  film that equals anything broadcast but is the direct output of an extensive research project. The research and use of film archive is quite brilliant and its combination with interview explores the multiple levels at which the concepts of hidden persuasion interacted with political ideologies across the cold war.”‘

Director
Nasheed Qamar Faruqi
Production Date
2017

Synopsis

In 1953, aged just 19, David Hawkins was one of 21 American prisoners of war who chose to live in communist China rather than return to the US after the Korean War. The decision of the ‘21 who stayed’ led to widespread public scrutiny in the US; they were branded as communist agents, weak-willed turncoats, and victims of a powerful new psychological warfare technique: ‘brainwashing’. Hawkins encountered the power of these claims when he returned to the US in 1957. Yet he found them largely alien to his experiences in China. When the Hidden Persuaders Project first contacted Hawkins in the fall of 2014, he had only recently begun to find words and concepts that could convey what he had faced.

David Hawkins: A Battle of the Mind (2017), directed by Nasheed Qamar Faruqi, combines Hawkins’ extraordinary life story, the research of The Hidden Persuaders Project, and Faruqi’s skill in using film as a mode for exploring the psyche. Blending oral history and archival footage, Faruqi‘s film traces Hawkins’ journey to China and back to American soil, following the choices he made and how they have been interpreted and re-interpreted by the media, politicians, ‘psy’ professionals and Hawkins himself. This film presents a challenging narrative that frames the ‘battle’ for Hawkins’ mind as a search for self-understanding.

About the filmmaker

Nasheed Qamar Faruqi is a Pakistani woman and film maker who grew up in London. Her previous work includes Bubbles (2015), a fictional short that screened at the Cannes Short Film Corner in 2015.

Cast & Crew

Editor
Yann Heckmann
Original Music
Zahra Mani
Sound Design
Gernot Fuhrmann
Graphics
Pierangelo Pirak

This film features interviews with David Hawkins conducted by Daniel Pick, Marcia Holmes, Charlie Williams, and Nasheed Qamar Faruqi.

Produced by the Hidden Persuaders project, and funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Related Sources

Nasheed Qamar Faruqi, ‘A New Documentary Film: David Hawkins: A Battle of the Mind’, Hidden Persuaders Blog November 2017.

They Chose China (Shuibo Wang, 2005), a film documentary about the 21 Americans who chose to live in China after the Korean War. This documentary features additional interview material with David Hawkins.

The Mike Wallace Interview with David Hawkins, 23 June 1957. The Mike Wallace Interview Collection, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas, USA.