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Popular Memories of the Mao EraFrom Critical Debate to Reassessing History$
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Sebastian Veg

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9789888390762

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888390762.001.0001

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Filmed Testimonies, Archives, and Memoirs of the Mao Era

Filmed Testimonies, Archives, and Memoirs of the Mao Era

Staging Unofficial History in Chinese Independent Documentaries*

(p.137) 7 Filmed Testimonies, Archives, and Memoirs of the Mao Era
Popular Memories of the Mao Era
Judith Pernin, Sebastian Veg
Hong Kong University Press

Over the past 25 years, various Chinese independent documentary filmmakers have attempted to shed light on times and topics that are vaguely, inaccurately or insufficiently narrated in official history, such as the Cultural Revolution, or more recently the Great Leap famine. Typically, independent documentaries focus on ordinary people’s memories, and often feature witnesses who survived various political movements. Investigating sensitive historical topics as an independent filmmaker requires a distinctive documentary framework in order to present the author’s filmic and historical endeavor in a favorable light and convince the audience. In the Chinese context, the filmmakers’ unofficial status has various consequences on their stance, their work method, but also on the films’ aesthetics and reception. The present essay gives an overview of this body of films and analyses how unofficial memory is framed and expressed by focusing on three main aspects: the filming of oral testimonies, the use of archival documents, and the role of written memoirs. This study of several works reveals the diversity of responses found by independent filmmakers to articulate their findings and discourse on unofficial history.

Keywords:   Documentary cinema, unofficial history, memoirs, oral testimonies, archives

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