Below is a collection of movies that I have enjoyed and watched more than once. Most concern aspects of the Chinese revolution and the socialist project since 1949. I have also included a few classics of socialist realism. All of movies listed here have subtitles, although some have only Chinese subtitles. The latter are useful if you are in the process of learning Chinese, apart from the obvious benefit of learning more about the history of the New China and the CPC.
The first film is one of my favourites, an understated film concerning Deng Xiaoping’s climb of Huangshan (Mount Huang) in Anhui Province. Most of the scenes expliciate in one way or another key themes of the Reform and Opening-Up.
The next two are epic-length movies concerning the founding of the CPC and of the People’s Republic. One version has English subtitles (you will need to select from a list of five languages) and the other with Chinese subtitles.
The Beginning of the Great Revival (建党伟业):
The Founding of a Republic (建国大业):
I would have liked to find a version of the recent film – called ‘Founding of an Army [建军大业]’ – commemorating the Nanchang Uprising and the birth of the Red Army (PLA). However, the only version with Chinese subtitles is found at youku.com (here).
Many films deal with stages in the long struggle against the Guomindang, led by Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek), as well as the Anti-Japanese War. In fact, Japan committed most of its resources to the imperialist effort to colonise China, and the Chinese struggle inflicted the greatest damage on the Japanese – leading to the latter’s defeat in what is also called the Second World War. The efforts by other countries in the Pacific were really a sideshow.
The first film is ‘On the Mountain of Tai Hang [太行山上]’, which depicts the efforts of the newly formed 8th Route Army, led by the legendary Zhu De, against the Japanese in 1937. The film focuses on the quietly spoken Zhu De, concerning whom Agnes Smedley – who was with the 8th Route Army – wrote a biography. The film has Chinese and English subtitles.
The second film is ’82 Warriors [刘老庄八十二壮士]’, telling the story of an asymmetrical rearguard action agains the Japanese in 1943, in order to enable the army’s main body, CPC and government organs to leave their base in Liulaozhuang safely. Chinese subtitles.
The third film is a little different, concerning the battle by the Red Army against the Guomindang in Xiushuihezi, in northeast China’s Liaoning province. The movie is entitled ‘The Battle of Xiushuihezi [秀水河子歼灭战]’. This one too has only Chinese subtitles.
On a different note, this film – ‘Mao Zedong and Qi Baishi [毛泽东与齐白石]’ – tells of the focus on cultural and artistic matters in the early days of the New China. The CPC ensured that artists like the renowned Qi Baisi were able to be part of the New China. This one has both Chinese and English subtitles.
More recently – 2019 – is ‘I and My Ancrestral Land [wo he wo de zuguo] ‘, which appears as ‘My People, My Country’ in English. This film was made in time for the grand 70th anniversary celebrations of the New China in October 2019. Needless to say, it was a blockbuster in China. It contains seven segments, directed by seven different directors, on key moments in the 70 years. My favourite segment is the first one, which goes for 30 minutes and offers a unique take on the first National Day (guoqing) on the 1st of October, 1949. The film has Chinese and English subtitles.
A collection of a number of socialist realist movies, mostly from the USSR.
The first is the classic ‘Fall of Berlin’, which is in two parts. It has subtitles, but you will need to choose the language from the setup list.