The Red Detachment of Women (1970)

The Red Detachment of Women (1970)
October 19, 2012 - 7:30 pm
In-person: 
UCLA professor Robert Chi, Beijing opera master and former yangbanxi performer Qi Shufang, theater director Peter Sellars, and director of UCLA’s Center for Chinese Studies Yan Yunxiang.

The Red Detachment of Women (1970)

Directed by Fu Jie

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-76) is often remembered now as a dark period of politics and violence in China. But it also saw the creation of spectacular works of art known as yangbanxi (revolutionary model dramas). Drawing upon traditional Chinese opera, Chinese novels and films of the 1950s and 1960s, Western symphonic music, and even ballet, the yangbanxi defined the culture of the Cultural Revolution. One of the most iconic of these hybrids, The Red Detachment of Women itself appeared in many forms from film to opera to posters and picture books. In the last dozen years, The Red Detachment of Women along with other yangbanxi have been revived numerous times as stage performances and television series.

Based upon the real tale of a 1930s women’s militia in exotic Hainan Island off the south coast of Mainland China, The Red Detachmentof Women follows the heroine Wu Qinghua as she escapes enslavement by the evil landlord Nan Batian and emerges as the leader of the women’s militia – guided and inspired all the while by the dashing Communist Party secretary Hong Changqing.

We are very pleased to present the 1970 ballet film version of The Red Detachment of Women, courtesy of the China Film Archive, for possibly the first officially approved screening of the film in the US in over 20 years. The presentation also marks the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s visit to China, during which he watched the live stage production of The Red Detachment of Women.

– Robert Chi

Producer: Beijing Film Studio. Pan Wenzhan. Adaptation: China Dance Drama Troupe. Cinematographer: Li Wenhua. Cast: Liu Qingtang, Xue Jinghua, Song Chen, Li Xinying, Li Chengxiang, Wan Qiwu.

35mm, color, 105 min.

This program has been made possible with funding support from the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies.