Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Far more than a History Lesson...
GLBT | Illinois | 06/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wow. This series consists of six one-hour episodes, and takes you through the beginning of the 20th century up until the present. The story that it tells is so incredibly bizarre and tragic and thought-provoking that at times it was difficult to believe it was all true. The 2nd DVD in particular, which focuses on the reign of Mao, really made me realize how different the Chinese culture is from my own (USA) and what a traumatic history they've had in the past 100 years.One of the things I really appreciated about this series was how non-judgmental it was. At no point did I feel that the editor or producers had a political agenda. The point was not to demonize the Communists and also not to glorify them. Instead, it simply let you watch the events unfold and let you listen to the people who lived it as they attempt to explain to you (and to themselves) how all of these unbelievable things happened and how it felt to be in the middle of it all.You could really understand why, after living through Chiang Kai-shek's corrupt Nationalist rule, the people were so eager to follow Mao and to embrace his idealistic vision of a Communist State built of equality and justice. And, too, you could see how the whole thing slowly went off-kilter. As Mao became more and more removed from the day-to-day reality of the peasants, his ideas became increasingly demented. In a sense, he reminded me of Marlon Brando's character in "Apocalypse Now," except that Mao was real and was in the position of leadership of almost one billion people.By the time the documentary got to the Cultural Revolution (the fourth of the six episodes), it's like you're watching some insane Monty Python-esque satire about revolutions within revolutions. Everyone was overthrowing everyone else, and all in the name of Mao.Watching this series will do far more than teach you some fascinating history; it will also make you re-examine all your most basic assumptions about how humans think and function. There's one woman interviewed who talks about an old man who was beaten to death shortly before her arrival, because a crowd of youths decided he was a Capitalist. She says at the end of the story that she still can't say for sure if she would have helped in beating him to death or not, had she arrived in time to do so. And this isn't some crazy woman saying this. It's someone perfectly sane and normal who simply got swept up in the times she was living in.I cannot recommend this series highly enough."
A documentary benchmark
pattem | Perth, Australia | 09/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a wonderfully unbiased documentary on the 20th century history of China. It begins with the fall of an Empire and rise of Sun Yat Sen in 1911, and moves onto Chiang Kai Shek and Chairman Mao who are portrayed as leaders who participated in some of the most significant events that define the Cultural Revolution. I remember Secondary School curriculae that portrays the Nationalist Chiang as the 'good-guy', and Chairman Mao as the 'bad-guy' of chinese 20th century history. However, this documentary remains ambivalent on both of these matters, presenting the facts without bias by the producers. They expertly weave a history with evenhandedness making it impartial and objective to the sometimes very subjective matter that is The Cultural Revolution. The entire six hour documentary spans approximately 70 years, from 1911 (Sun Yat Sen) through to the rule and capitalistic tendencies of Deng Xiao Peng.While the objectivity of the documentary is laudable, the treatment of the subject matter is nothing short of exceptional. The intention of the documentary is to serve as an overview within a six hour time-frame. It is NOT intended as an in-depth political study of the times! Subsequently, the documentary does not getted bogged-down in too much detail, but simultaneously manages to adequately portray the events that defined 20th century China.On the whole this documentary is highly watchable, offering historical footage and interviews with those who participated in the Cultural Revolution in one form or another. Any curriculum study of 20th century China would be greatly enhanced by including this documentary. The documentary also serves as a great introduction to China for anyone interested in the country and how it has arrived at being the country it is today."
Monumental doucumentary. Sweeping in scope and detail.
Bobby Kwan | Northern Virginia | 05/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This documentary is excellently produced and I can easily watch all 6-hours of it in one sitting. It is just that compelling and fascinating to see the history of China over the last century unfold and come to life in expert testimony and primary footage of the actual events that took place, even all the way back to a speech given by Sun Yat-Sen.6 hours is long, and at the same time, it is a very short space to compress a full century of history into. However, this film does it superbly. The dvd splits the history into three eras. The pre-WWII period (Sun Yat-Sen, Japanese Invation, the duel between the CCP and the KMT), the rise of Mao and the Communists, and what the future holds for China and the Chinese. There is ample detail provided about events and people who shaped each era.If you know nothing about China in the last century, and all the turmoil which occured, I would strongly recommend this documentary. It has no equal in terms of it's broad scope and compelling content, and makes the already intriging story of China in the 20th century come even more alive, and human.If you already are a Chinese history buff, this film will be interesting all the same. It is full of rare footage (where else will you get to see Dr. Sun in film? or peasants "struggling" against their landlords?) and audio (I've never heard Madame Mao's voice before this.) that you will probably never see or hear anywhere else. Interviews with those who endured the Cultural Revoution and those who will shape the future of China give the film an intimate touch. Included are: Dr. Li, Mao's personal physician of two decades, Chinese celebrities, peasants, landlords, urban dwellers, students. All love China, but they sweep the gamut from those who hate Mao to those who love him, and what the Communists have done for/to China, and what the future lies in store for them, and the rest of the Chinese people.Overall, and AMAZING documentary with an incredible scope. Covering one of the most amazing and remarkable chapters of human history, good and bad, this documentary will not dissapoint."
Robert J. Sawyer | Mississauga, ON, Canada | 03/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Without any histrionics, without any overt agenda, without any fancy graphics or flashy effects, this six-hour series provides a totally absorbing, very moving portrait of China in the 20th century. The interview subjects are extraordinarily candid, and the archival footage is fascinating. Truly first rate."