De Anza College Chinese Cinema in Global Perspective Discussion
LTEA 120 Chinese Films: Chinese Cinema in Global Perspective
Session 7: Cinema and the Nation: Literature on Screen
Study and Discussion Questions
1. Read the short story “New Year’s Sacrifice” (1924) and then watch the film New Year’s
Sacrifice (1956). How are these two works connected to each other? How does the film
adapt the story for the screen? What is the message Lu Xun seeks to convey in the
original story, and how is it enhanced in the film? How do both the story and the film
present incisive cultural critique of the entire social and cultural system by focusing
closely on the life and fate of one female protagonist?
2. Consider the two films This Life is Mine and New Year’s Sacrifice within the historical
context in which they were created. How do both of these films reflect contemporary
lived reality while also engaging and conveying ideological messages? How are both of
these films social realist works, albeit in different ways? Explain.
3. Re–read and think about Yingjin Zhang’s chapter in Chinese National Cinema What do
you learn about the situation of filmmakers, artists, and intellectuals during the highly
ideological socialist years? How did the power of the nation–state impact filmmaker’s
4. Re–read and think about Jessica Ka Yee Chan’s text “Literature on Screen: Recasting
Hollywood Narration in Family Melodrama.” How does the family become a microcosm
of the nation in many of the films made during the socialist era, and how do we see this
particularly clearly in the film New Year’s Sacrifice? What is classical Hollywood
narration, and how do we see its impact on the film This Life is Mine?
5. In both films we watched for today, you see the portrayal of absolute villains,
melodrama, and sympathy for the main protagonist? Yet, at the same time, the two films
are very different. Compare and contrast the way we as spectators respond to key
elements of the visual text, and how the films affect us similarly and differently?
6. Think about these two films in relation to films we viewed earlier, particularly the films
made in the 1930’s and 1920’s? How can we see that the earlier films belong to the mode
of “social realism,” whereas these 1950’s films are more strongly ideological “socialist
realist” works. How do the concept of the nation and the power of ideology play a role in
this evolution of film style? Explain.
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