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Dear Colleague,

We invite you to immerse yourself in the study of Chinese society through film in an exciting program featuring leading scholars in the field for four weeks this summer. Twentieth century China has been called a century of transformation, and Chinese films have represented and debated this transformation even as it was occurring. Open to educators in K-12 schools as well as prospective teachers, who will be designated NEH Summer Scholars, our Institute promises to be an exciting exploration of twentieth century China on film.

Chinese Film and Society has a dual ambition: to make use of films to understand and interpret Chinese history, culture and contemporary society, and to understand the problematics of film as a medium for representing an entire nation. Because of this dual ambition, we will consider films in their specific contexts, while understanding the complex relationship which exists between film and society. In other words, we will use Chinese films to help us understand and teach about China on the one hand, and to understand the aesthetic and cinematic uniqueness of Chinese films on the other. If we treat Chinese film as an unquestioned direct representation of China without paying attention to the uniqueness of film as a medium of visual art, we will likely reinforce stereotypes and further create biases; if we treat Chinese film as an artistic expression only, we cannot see the historical and political implications behind seemingly innocuous images.

Chinese films are unique in the sense that they have been closely and sometimes directly involved in China's historical changes for the 20th and 21st centuries. Since the 1920s, Chinese filmmakers often used film as a weapon to mobilize the masses for fights against opposing camps or Japanese invaders. Their films would also often be interpreted as political weapons. During the Mao years (1949-1976), filmmakers were frequently targeted for political "cleansings." Only since the 1980s was film accepted as a form of entertainment in China. The newer generations of filmmakers, led by the filmmakers like Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige, stunned the world by sweeping most important film festival awards. And their successors in contemporary China tend to somberly reflect upon China's massive urbanization projects.

The artistically excellent films we have selected, whether from Hong Kong, Taiwan, or mainland China are both mass entertainment and historical documents. In Chinese Film and Society we use their compelling stories to address these questions: How do individuals, families, and societies experience historic change? Does a distinctive moral sense shape their films? Do Confucian family values make us happy or stifle us? Do tradition, culture, and political ideology create spiritual meaning or repress us? How do national politics - the drive for respect, revolution - shape our lives? What is a just society? And finally, how is globalization transforming our society and ourselves?

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