Documentaries and Films

The page provides links to a number of relevant documentaries and films that may be of interest.

Nameless Heroes: DPRK Wartime spy series

For something completely different, well directed, filmed and acted, see the series “Nameless Heroes” from the DPRK – also known as “Unsung Heroes.” Filmed over 1978-1981, it was a big hit in the DPRK and then China. The series was dubbed in Chinese and later colorised. Set during the Korean War, it follows the story of spies providing vital information about US plans to invade the north. The first two episodes have English subtitles, and the remainder of the series is the Chinese version.

100 Years of the CPC: In My Eyes

This a series of short videos featuring Michael Crook on his parents, Isabel and David Crook. Both were and are communists who have lived in China for decades. Indeed, Isabel was 6 years old when the CPC was established in 1921 and she has seen the CPC transform China from one of the poorest countries in the world to what it is now. Michael himself was born in China in 1951 and has lived in China for his whole life. I have have met Isabel and her son Michael on a number of occasions in Beijing.

Episode 1

Edpisode 2

Episode 3

I also recommend this video with Michael Crook. People say his Beijing accent is second to none and even his body language is Chinese. But then you would expect that since he has lived his whole life in China.

Episode 4

To complete this collection, a documentary focusing on the life of Isabel Crook.

Chinese History

A long series due to a long history of China and its spirit. The first documentary offers an overview of a history very different from anywhere else.

There are 100 episodes in the series – too long to list all of them here. If you want to know more and practice your Chinese (they have subtitles), please go to this link (here).

Targetted Poverty Alleviation

For those interested in a useful overview of China’s extraordinary poverty alleviation project the following documentary series is worth viewing.

Ecological Civilisation

Shengtai wenming (生态文明) is the Chinese term, which is rather inadequately translated as ‘ecological civilisation’. Shengtai means an organism’s habits, modes of life and interconnection with its environment, a much more comprehesive and integrated sense than ‘ecological’. And while the English term ‘civilisation’ is derived from Latin and means ‘citification’ – since cities are in the Western tradition seen as the source of more advanced human life – in Chinese wenming has a much wider sense. The character wen (文) is full of meaning, all the way from a written character to culture itself, ming (明) has the senses of bright, understanding and wisdom.

As you can see, shengtai wenming is almost impossible to translate except as a longish phrase. Perhaps I can suggest it means a culture’s wisdom in developing its modes of life in a fully integrated way with its environment. This is now a key development goal of China, and is an inescapable part of achieving a xiaokang society, or a moderately well-off, healthy and peaceful society.

Some Recommended Films

The first film is one of my favourites, an understated film concerning Deng Xiaoping’s climb of Huangshan (Mount Huang) in Anhui Province. Most of the scenes expliciate in one way or another key themes of the Reform and Opening-Up.

The next is an epic-length movie concerning the founding of the CPC and of the People’s Republic. The English subtitles need to be selected from a list of five languages.

The Beginning of the Great Revival (建党伟业):