What was cultural about the Cultural Revolution, or was the decade only a cultural desert? Upon the fiftieth anniversary of the Cultural Revolution, this symposium considers the cinematic production and reception, practices and legacies of that tumultuous decade. The mass criticism of several “poisonous weed” films in the mid-1960s helped to launch the Cultural Revolution, and the 1970s saw the expansion of the film exhibition network and radical growth of film audiences. If film was the mass medium that reached the most number of people, were these people simply “brainwashed” by what they saw, or were there more alternative modes of reception? With the censorship and rejection of nearly all films made before 1966, what special film aesthetics and genres emerged in the Cultural Revolution? How did cinema interact with other propaganda media? What was the political role of film production, exhibition, and criticism, especially given the intense involvement of top political leaders? What has been the afterlife of Cultural Revolution cinema, and how are the decade’s films and everyday movie- going remembered today? These questions will be addressed in the three panels—Revolution through Cinema, Revolutionary Aesthetics, and Cinematic Memories—plus a roundtable discussion.
Sponsored by the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard, the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, and the CCK Foundation Inter-University Center for Sinology.
**This symposium also coincides with a film program at the Harvard Film Archive, Xie Jin, Before and After the Cultural Revolution (April 15-May 1). Please refer to http://hcl.harvard.edu/hfa/films/2016marmay/xie.html for more details.