Xie Jin


Xie Jin
b. 1923, Shaoxing, Zhejiang
Film director, producer
Xie Jin is little known in the West but is an unparalleled phenomenon in Chinese film, an institution unto himself. His success is built upon a skilful and distinctive blending (popularly called the ‘Xie Jin model’) of two features usually segregated in mainland film: politically propagandist (‘educational’) subject matter and an emotionally appealing, melodramatic style associated with ‘entertainment’ film.
A graduate of the National Nanjing School of Theatre in the late 1940s, his prize-winning films go back to the mid 1950s with Girl Basketball Player No. 5 (1957) and Red Detachment of Women (1961), the latter winning China’s first ‘Hundred Flowers’ award for most popular feature film. During the Cultural Revolution, Xie’s Stage Sisters (1965) was severely criticized for characters and environment rather than the depiction of class and class struggle that dictated the plot, and Xie Jin was badly persecuted. He made no more films until filming Jiang Qing’s model opera, On the Docks, with Xie Tieli in 1973.
After the Cultural Revolution, Xie’s films began to offer limited but significant criticism of the government from within the film establishment itself, prior to the emergence of the so-called ‘Fifth Generation’ of directors. These films were the most popular of the year in six different years during the 1980s, including: Legend of Tianyun Mountain (1980), which won the film industry’s first ‘Golden Rooster’ awards for best film, director, script, cinematography and art design and dared to criticize official motives during the Anti-Rightist Movement of 1957; Garlands at the Foot of the Mountain (1984), which censured bureaucratism in the PLA itself during China’s 1979 border war with Vietnam; and the still-popular Hibiscus Town (1986), which documented self-serving radicalism during the Cultural Revolution. In the free market of the 1990s, having long dominated the government’s powerful Shanghai Film Studio, Xie formed his own film company, the Xie Jin Hengtong Corporation. In 1997, to celebrate the handing over of Hong Kong, Xie’s Opium War (1997) was produced on a record budget of US$ 12 million, but lacked the dramatic force of his better films of the 1980s.
Chi, Robert (2003). ‘The Red Detachment of Women: Resenting, Regendering, Remembering’. In Chris Berry (ed.), Chinese Films in Focus: 25 New Takes. London: BFI, 152–9.
Hayford, Charles (2003). ‘Hibiscus Town: Revolution, Love, and Bean Curd’. In Chris Berry (ed.), Chinese Films in Focus: 25 New Takes. London: BFI, 120–7.
Karl, Rebecca (2001). The Burdens of History: Lin Zexu (1959) and The Opium War (1997)’. In Zhang Xudong (ed.), Whither China? Intellectual Politics in Contemporary China. Durham: Duke University Press, 229–62.
Xiao, Zhiwei (2000). The Opium War in the Movies: History, Politics, and Propaganda’. Asian Cinema 11.1 (Spring): 68–83.
JEROME SILBERGELD

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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