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Film Review: Beginning of the Great Revival

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Film Review: Beginning of the Great Revival

I was hoping to watch Confucius on Netflix, however, it wasn't there. Suggested to me was the film, Beginning of the Great Revival. The film was created to celebrate the founding of the Communist Party and covers the development of the party for 10 years, from 1911 to 1921. Theoretically, a film on the development of the Communist party would be great for students--it simplifies the History, shows the major characters, and gives a solid visual. However, there are several issues that must be solved before students could watch this film.

1. It is clearly a propaganda film. So blatantly at times that it is hard to imagine it even works as propaganda. There is a "yeah right" feeling that you get as you watch the film and even I could predict what the characters will say or do. Any viewing of this film should come with counter-views or correctives.

2. The film is impossible to understand without some background. I stopped and Googled almost every character that appeared--and it is in the dozens--as well as some scenes. Most of the characters explicitly named have only a few minutes here or there on the screen before the historical events push on and they are forgotten. This works fine when they are people and stories that everybody in China knows, but unfortunately, it won't be for students.

Despite these caveats, I still think this would be a good film to show, particularly in a History through Film class. I would give a lecture, using the film to guide my lecture and knowing that students would see the film after the lecture. In this way students would be given the background needed. Furthermore, I would have questions during the film about various events and the motives of individuals in the film. Then after the film, I might give students alternative historical interpretations and we can have a discussion of historical motivations.

I really think that this film, with scaffolding, is an excellent way for students to get an "inside" look at the Chinese Communist Revolution, that counters American views. Moreover, I think after the lecture, the film will help the events sink into their memories.