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Painting for the Revolution: Peasant Paintings from Hu County, China

Hu Jie

Release year: 2007

Run time: 70 mins

Film type: Documentary


Hu County, in suburban Xi’an, is famous for its peasant paintings, produced in 1958 during the Great Leap Forward. It became particularly famous during the Cultural Revolution, when these works were hailed as model paintings. In 2005, the directors visited the county and interviewed both the painters and their teachers.

Comparing different political languages and artistic imaginings across the ages, the film draws on diverse sources: old documentary film clips, new propaganda paintings, Beijing Opera in the local “Qin” accent, and traces of the old amongst the new. All these elements are engaged to help us better understand the painters and the phenomenon of propaganda paintings.


Director biography

Hu Jie is an independent historian, artist, and filmmaker. Born in Jinan, Shandong in 1958, he graduated from the Art College of the People’s Liberation Army. He works in oils and woodcuts from his lakeside studio in Nanjing. His films are among the most important documents of China’s unacknowledged “unoffcial history”, and include Looking for Lin Zhao’s Soul (2005), about a martyr-poet critic of Mao; and Though I Am Gone (2007), about an elite Beijing girls’ high school whose students murdered their headmaster at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.