Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.

The Mao Years: 1949-1976

  • Rating: ****
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $129.00
  • Date: Copyright 1994. Released 1994.
  • Descriptors: China - History. Communism - China. Mao Zedong.
  • Production Information: Live action, Stills. Produced by Sue Williams, Kathryn Dietz, Judith Vecchione. Directed by Sue Williams. Narrated by Will Lyman. Music by Tan Dun. Color, b&w. Stereo . Includes Discussion guide. Closed captioned. 120 min.
  • Production Company: Ambrica Productions
  • Available from: Zeitgeist Films 247 Centre St., 2nd Floor New York, NY 10013 (212) 274-1989
  • Cataloging: 951.05 Mao, Tse-tung, 1893-1976||China - History - 20th century||Biographical films
  • Print Entry #: 5:1404
  • Reviewer: Steven E. Rogers

    This lengthy but very rewarding program depicts the life of Mao Zedong from the time of the communist victory in 1949 to the 1966 Cultural Revolution and beyond. It effectively establishes the central role played by Mao in shaping the political, cultural, and economic life of China as its people struggled to achieve an idealistic, egalitarian society.

    In 1949, the communist leadership inherited a country whose agricultural and industrial base had been virtually destroyed by years of corruption, civil war, and foreign invasion. Mao's overwhelming task was to find a way to industrialize the economy and visibly improve the lives of the Chinese people. The initial flurry of legislation enacted by the communists at first proved very popular. Rural peasants were encouraged to seize land from their wealthy landlords, which resulted in an immediate improvement in the standard of living. This in turn ensured increased support for the revolution among the people.

    The origins of Chinese involvement in the Korean War are given an excellent treatment by this documentary, which emphasizes Mao's determination to force MacArthur's troops back from the Chinese border after United Nations forces had successfully routed the North Koreans. The stalemate that resulted forced the United States and the world to recognize the reality of the Chinese revolution.

    The production then focuses on Mao's complete reorganization of Chinese society during the 1950s, including the collectivization of agriculture and Mao's attempt to fund rapid industrialization by increasing the government's quota of grain from the peasants. This errant policy resulted in the eventual starvation of more than 30 million people between 1959 and 1961. By the mid-1960s, despite many outward signs that the country was beginning to improve, Mao decided that many of his associates were becoming too powerful, so he encouraged students and other idealists to openly attack party leaders. This was the infamous Cultural Revolution, in which Mao promoted the notion that the only true communist revolution was an ongoing one. It took China years to recover from the movement's disruptive effects.

    The video effectively blends individual reminiscences with a wealth of documentary footage, and there are no problems of any kind with sound quality or any other technical consideration. Despite its two-hour running time, this production is very successful in providing a relatively impartial examination of the historical policies of the Chinese Communist Party.

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