Propagating the Propaganda Film: The Meaning of Film
in Chinese Communist Party Writings, 1949-1965

By Tina Mai Chen

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 154-193

Lenin claimed that film was the most revolutionary of all art forms. The Chinese Communist Party reiterated this claim as they utilized film as an important propaganda medium throughout the Maoist period. As a novel media form, particularly in rural areas, the CCP also recognized that the meaning of film was not self evident, regardless of claims to its revolutionary potential. This paper explores the ways in which film acquired meaning as filmic practice, experience, and discourse. Through critical examination of print materials discussing the showing and viewing of films, I focus on the contingent relationship between film, ideal audience members, socialist subjectivities, national unification, and modernity/modernization. I argue that despite the mimetic model of spectatorship employed by the CCP, the CCP did not believe in unmediated “real experiences.” As a result, print propaganda was essential for creating the language, ideals, and practices that rendered the broadly conceived filmic experience central to realization of nationalist and revolutionary projects of the early Maoist period.