Crossing the 1949 Divide: Rethinking Cultural Continuities in 1950s’ China (Part II)

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Crossing the 1949 Divide: Rethinking Cultural Continuities in 1950s’ China (Part II)
Stream: Cinema Studies/Film
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Yidi Wu, Saint Mary's College, IN, United States (organizer, chair, presenter)
Yucong Hao, University of Michigan, United States (presenter)
Yan Du, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong (presenter)
Chuanhui Meng, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, United States (presenter)


Our panel focuses on film productions in the 1940s and 1950s sponsored by the Communist authorities. While these films bear marks of specific historical events, from the founding of the People’s Republic to the Anti-Rightist Campaign and the Great Leap Forward, they were consistent with films produced in wartime, as well as those from the Soviet Union. Our papers collectively argue for the continuity of film productions in terms of ideological mechanism and technological borrowing. These films best challenge the 1949 divide, a foundational myth constructed by the Communist leadership.
Looking at animated filmmaking in North China, Du highlights the continuity, rather than the assumed rupture of wartime, postwar, and early socialist film culture across rigid temporal and political divides. Hao compares the sounding schemes and sound technologies in early PRC documentaries, and identifies the stylistic transition from Yan'an documentalism to Soviet-inflected socialist realism. Wu studies the documentary Struggle against Rightists (1957), and argues that the Communists built their legitimacy based on the contrast before and after 1949, while the “rightists” were punished for challenging that narrative. Meng studies a documentary art film Rhapsody of the Ming Tomb Reservoir (1958), and considers how Revolutionary Realism and Revolutionary Romanticism were founded upon and yet simultaneously rewritten the theoretical traditions of Soviet socialist realism of the 1930s and Mao’s Yan’an Talk in 1942.