I’ve watched a few China themed movies lately and wanted to make a couple of recommendations for this very snowy winter.
The Painted Veil – This isn’t historical, but it is a pretty great glimpse of what life in rural China would have looked like around 1900. The movie is about a doctor who accepts a position in the countryside treating an epidemic. Edward Norton and Naomi Watts give good performances. definitely worth a watch.
I must admit that I’m a bit partial to this movie because it was filmed just a few miles from Yizhou, where I lived for a year.
China: A Century of Revolution – This one can be a bit daunting at first, all 3 parts total up to 6 hours of documentary fun. I recommend this series for those of you who are interested in learning more about China’s recent history, but don’t want to read. The big value of this documentary is all of the historical footage, paired with a lot of interviews with “commoners.”
I have watched this with Party members and they were very impressed at how balanced the documentary was, and how it sticks to the facts.
The first section is focused on China from 1911-1949, also known as the Republican era. The second section looks at the early Communist period, from 1949- to the early 1970’s. The final section gives a great overview of China’s change from command economy to capitalism.
Chung Kuo – Cina This is perhaps the most intense of these three. Michelangelo Antonioni was commissioned by Mao during the cultural revolution to show the many achievements of the Communist Party. The resulting product was banned in China shortly after its completion, and Antonioni was labeled an anti-communist.
The funny thing is, that the film was made by setting up a camera in several places and just letting it run. Antonioni simply introduces each location and gives a brief explanation of what is happening.
If you have been to China, put this in your must watch pile. There are amazing scenes of Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai, and is a great reminder of how much some things have changed, while others have remained frozen in time. Also several scenes of Chinese children singing propaganda songs are fascinating.