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Week I - The May Fourth Legacy
We begin with an overview of China's modern history, from the Opium Wars to the Communist Revolution of 1949, with special emphasis on the May Fourth Movement of 1919. Through the use of film clips, two films made about the Opium Wars, Lin Zexu from the 1950s and Xie Jin's 1997 The Opium Wars, will illustrate how heroes and villains sometimes trade places in revisions of history, and how the political environment shapes the interpretation of history in the popular mind. The film Hero, a contemporary film about ancient history, demonstrates the continuity of this genre of filmmaking. The second half of the week concentrates on a seminal era in modern Chinese history: the May Fourth period. We will examine Shanghai as a unique semi-colonial metropolis during the 1930s and 1940s, a metropolis that gave birth to the leftist movement and the golden era of Chinese cinema, pictured by China's most renown writers: Lu Xun, Ba Jin, Shen Congwen, and Mao Dun. These writers wrote critically about Chinese society: each has also been the source of well-known and popular films, especially after 1949. We will read and discuss their stories and screen adaptations, such as Lu Xun's New Year's Sacrifice, Ba Jin's Family, Shen Congwen's Xiaoxiao: A Girl from Hunan and Bordertown, and Mao Dun's Midnight.

Week II - High Maoism: Film, Politics, and the State expands the social critique to include a discussion of the intense interrelationship of film and politics after the Communist Revolution of 1949. Four films from the Maoist period (1949-1976) will be shown. The feature film Crows and Sparrows will be a launching point for a discussion of continuities and differences in state-society relations on the eve of the Communist Revolution and at the present time. Crows and Sparrows foreshadows the optimistic spirit prevailing in the 1950s, but also considers the Nationalist state to be a predatory force. In more recent films like Blind Shaft, a predatory Communist state plays a role, but so too do the amoral individuals who seek to gain by merely threatening state power. The transition from the optimism expressed in 1949 (also made clear in the documentary The Mao Years) to the pessimism of more recent features can be seen in films such as The Troubleshooters, Farewell My Concubine, and The Blue Kite. Even films with "optimistic" endings, such as The Forest Ranger, also to be shown, reveal the complexities that govern state-society relations today, and the obstacles the central government faces in implementing its policies when those policies compete with local interests and the local power structure. A compilation of film clips on the use of film to reveal the changing nature of politics, economics, ideology, culture and society in China will be shown and discussed in class and in workshops.

Week III - The Individual, the State and Society: Globalization's Impact will begin the discussion of contemporary social, economic and political issues which stem from globalization and rapid social change. During the day, using recent documentary films (several of which are relatively short and can be used in the secondary school classroom), lectures will focus on issues continuous with themes discussed in Week II: political dissent, the internet, class distinction, and corruption. But there are also new issues to be raised, which stem directly from increasing globalization and the accompanying rapid social transformation: gender issues, the role of women internal migration, harsh working conditions, and the alienation of youth. In week III, the perspective of an anthropologist will address these new themes and broaden the literary, political and historical approaches of previous instructors. Evening screenings of feature films, to be scheduled on an optional ad hoc basis if time constraints allow, will portray similar themes.

Week IV - Crossing Borders: Chinese Identities and World Cinema considers the increasingly close interrelationship between Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland Chinese societies in the 21st century, and raises the question of how to define a Chinese national cinema. In conjunction with an in-depth consideration of two important Chinese film auteurs (Hou Hao-hsien from Taiwan and Wong Kar-wai from Hong Kong), we will examine the historical relationship between the Hong Kong and Shanghai film industries during the 1930s and '40s, when many film personnel fled WWII and the civil war on the mainland for Hong Kong (and later Taiwan). We contextualize Chinese cinema in a discussion of the Chinese film industry, including the "generations" of filmmakers, the Chinese studio system, the rise of independent film, distribution, and the interrelationships between HK, Taiwan and mainland cinemas. Finally, we will place Chinese film in a broader, global context. Historically, for example, both Chinese and Hollywood cinemas of the 1930s incorporated similar social themes and melodramatic styles. Today, Chinese cinema explores the boundaries between documentary and narrative filmmaking and is playing a leading role in the development of film art throughout the world.

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