The Newest Revolution


1983 / 52 minutes

Directed by
Leslie Woodhead Claire Lasko
Country of production
United Kingdom
Disappearing World Series

This film is a continuation of 'Living with the Revolution', set in the same communes near Wuxi and focusing on the same families. This film concentrates, however, on the new social and economic policies following the fall of Mao. The new movement is from a highly collectivized system of production to the new 'Responsibility System' where the primary production unit is again the household. One of the families interviewed is the Ding family. The Dings are obviously an influential family in the village, which is called Big Ding Village; the mother is a Party member, the father and one son are accountants, another son is an engineer, a daughter-in-law works in an instruments factory. The family is wealthy. By Mr Ding's own admission they earn between 4,000 to 4,500 RMB a year in an economy where they only require 1,500 RMB a year to live. The rest goes for material luxuries. This new-found wealth is shown as the result of the new 'Responsibilty System'.

Big Ding Village is a partly urbanized community, but another commune of the area, the Wong Jong Commune, is rural. The new policies allow each person their own strip of land, and although the Party dictates what the owner can plant, surplus can be sold for individual profit. These policies are trying to strike a delicate balance to maintain the communal ideals of the Party while encouraging individualism. Although Mrs Ding and others talk about the equality of women, women now not only work away from home, but also do the traditional duties of a wife. A young wife, who traditionally moves to her husband's home, is still expected to serve her in-laws. A young bride's description of her first meeting with her future husband in an arranged marriage corresponds closely with the traditional meeting of Mr and Mrs Ding in the years before Liberation. This film creates a portrait of the tensions between the traditional and the new. One such conflict is the government directive for the one-child family. Although many families in China acknowledge the validity of this policy, it is hard to deny the traditional importance of a large family. Mrs Ding, who gives all appearances of being quite a remarkable woman, also works as a mediator in a system that tries to resolve conflicts in the community before they reach the courts. Implicit in the mediation are traditional Chinese values; the young must respect the decisions of their elders for the system to be effective. After the mediation sequence, the film shows several old men in a tea room while the narration describes a new pension scheme that would free younger people from taking care of their parents. This policy undermines the fundamental Chinese principle of the value of age and it is no wonder that the older people resent the plan. The film is about change, a new materialism, a refocus on individual effort which could threaten communal life. This is in many ways a reassertion of traditional Chinese values; reward for individual effort and materialism have only been strangers to China after Liberation.

A. Jenkins, 1986. ` ¡Disappearing World¬ Goes to China: A Production Study of Anthropological Films'. Anthropology Today, Vol. 2, No. 3, 6-13.

A. Jenkins, 1988. `Granada Television Goes to China: The Choice of Location and Characters'. Visual Anthropology, Vol. 1, pp. 453-73.

A. Singer with L. Woodhead, 1988. Disappearing World: Television and Anthropology. Granada Television Ltd, Boxtree.

Review of the films. RAIN, No. 57, pp. 9-10

Language and subtitles
English with English Subtitles
Central Asia and Far East
Family / Kinship Social Change