University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

60 Years of China on Film: 1949-2009

November 4, 2009IASCourses, Events0

GLOS 3900, section 101, ALL 3920, section 005, 1 credit
Tuesdays 6:00 – 8:30 p.m., November 3 – 24
104 Folwell Hall
Instructor: Jessica Ka Yee Chan, Asian Languages and Literatures

Course Description

October 1, 2009 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. To mark the occasion, in November the University of Minnesota and the Walker Art Center will offer an unprecedented series of films showing the history of revolutionary and post-revolutionary China through the lens of PRC filmmakers from the 1940s to the 2000s. Films range from Mao era classics in which the young PRC establishes a “Red” version of history, to post-Mao films that in many ways challenge the revolutionary legacy, to more current films that experiment with form and look critically at the market-driven culture of China during its current economic boom.

This unique 1-credit course will meet only during the month of November. Students will attend four 2.5-hour lecture/discussion sessions on Tuesday evenings throughout the month, and attend a minimum of seven of the thirteen films in the series, including at least three at the Bell Auditorium (on DVD) and three at the Walker Art Center (on 35mm film). Besides film and class attendance, course requirements include regular postings to a film series blog, participation in class discussions, small group work, and short assignments. Non-degree seeking students are welcome. Please consult with the College of Continuing Education for registration.
Film screening attendance and work obligations can be negotiated if advance notice is given.

Film Screening Schedule

Screenings are held on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6:00 p.m. at the Bell Auditorium throughout the month of November. Visit the Walker Art Center’s website for ticketing and further information about their film screenings. Walker screenings are $8 ($6 Walker members) with a Cinephile’s Special: See 5 films for the price of 3 for $24 ($18 members). Please contact Jessica Ka Yee Chan for further information about the course and Bell Museum screenings (

Week 1

Wednesday, November 4
New Year’s Sacrifice (dir. Sang Hu, 100 min, 1956)

A fine example of revolutionary realism, this film is creatively adapted from the 1924 short story by Lu Xun, the father of modern Chinese literature. A peasant women forced into two consecutive arranged marriages and then ostracized from society serves as a strong critique of the pre-Revolution family structure.
6:00 p.m., Bell Auditorium


Friday, November 6
Crows and Sparrows (dir. Zheng Junli, 113 min, 1949)

Created just before the end of the Chinese Civil War and extremely critical of the corrupt bureaucracy of Chiang Kai-Shek’s government, this film shows a handful of tenants rebelling against a ruthless landlord.
7:30 p.m., Walker Art Center



Saturday, November 7
Little Red Flowers (dir. Zhang Yuan, 91 min, 2006)
Based on author Wang Shuo’s semi-autobiographical novel, Could Be Beautiful, this film follows a young boy, Fang Qiangqiang, at a kindergarten boarding school. Deposited into a world that demands conformity (rewarded by little red flowers), Qiang suffers for his independence.

7:30 pm, Walker Art Center
Additional showing on Wednesday, November 11 at 10:00 am.

Week 2

Sunday, November 8
Red Detachment of Women (dir. Pan Wenzhan, et al., 120 min, 1970)
Adapted as one of the eight model performances of the Cultural Revolution, this film nonetheless shows off the influence of western ballet on Chinese theater. 
3:00 p.m. Walker Art Center



Monday, November 9
Red Detachment of Women (dir. Xie Jin, 92 min, 1961)

Immensely popular during Mao’s era, The Red Detachment of Woman features a female soldier as the positive heroine typical of the revolutionary era. Also a love story about a peasant girl rescued by a Red Army commander who later recruits her into his fighting force.
6:00 p.m., Bell Auditorium


Wednesday, November 11
Red Lantern (dir. Cheng Yin,112 min,1970)

One of the eight “model performances” during the Cultural Revolution, this modern revolutionary Peking opera film showcases the highly stylized revolutionary aesthetics typical of the era.
6:00 p.m., Bell Auditorium



Friday, November 13
Yellow Earth (dir. Chen Kaige, 89 min, 1984)

The film follows a Communist soldier sent to the countryside to collect folk songs that support the party’s ideals, but finds his beliefs challenged by the hardships of peasant life.
7:30 p.m., Walker Art Center



Saturday, November 14
Platform (dir. Jia Zhangke, 154 min, 2000)
Platform is the first chapter in a historical epic about the economic changes sweeping China from the ’80s onwards, with the implementation of Deng Xiaoping’s Open Door policy. Set in Fenyang, Shanxi Province, the film focuses on a group of amateur theatre troupe performers whose fate mirrors that of the general population in China
7:30 p.m., Walker Art Center

Week 3

Monday, November 16
One and Eight (dir. Zhang Junzhao, 90 min,1983)

Based on an epic poem and under the artistic direction of acclaimed cinematographer Zhang Yimou, this is one of the first Chinese films to move towards the artistic experimentation of the 1980s as it tells the story of eight criminals and a deserting officer in the communist army caught up in the second World War.
6:00 p.m., Bell Auditorium


Wednesday, November 18
Ermo (dir. Zhou Xiaowen, 98 min, 1994)

A captivating and sensual tale about a strong-willed rural woman’s obsessive pursuit of the biggest television in town,Ermo is a cinematic meditation on post-socialist consumerism in China.
6:00 p.m., Bell Auditorium



Thursday, November 19
Beijing Bastards (dir. Zhang Yuan, 95 min, 1993) 

A bleak treatise on youth, cast with actual rock musicians and artists, Beijing Bastards is considered one of the first “independent” films in China, and was partly financed by Zhang’s income from directing music videos.
7:30 p.m., Walker Art Center



Saturday, November 21
Good Cats (dir. Ying Liang, 103 min, 2009) and Cry Me A River (dir. Jia Zhang-ke, 19 min, 2009)
Ying’s inventive third film is a razor-sharp satire of the moral consequences of China’s rise to economic power as 29-year-old Luo Liang becomes a driver for Boss Peng, a shady real estate developer, against a backdrop of rock music interludes and upbeat commercials for the impending Olympics.


In Jia’s short film, four far-flung college students are reunited ten years after graduation and take up the same arguments from their youth. Banter within the ex-students group followed by more private exchanges between couples reveal that their current lives as materially successful but emotionally barren.

7:30 p.m., Walker Art Center

Week 4

Monday, November 23
Pirated Copy (dir. He Jianjun, 90 min, 2004)
Set against the backdrop of the comtemporary black market for pirated DVDs in Beijing, Pirated Copy is a character-driven drama about two couples and their passion for each other and for film. 
6:00 p.m., Bell Auditorium

Schedule subject to change


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