Some Mao Era Ethnographic Films

Clearly massive hard drives are becoming like attics—places where forgotten things wait to be rediscovered. Yesterday while talking with a friend about the Oroqen people in China, I vaguely remembered that six or seven years ago a visual anthropologist in China had shared with me an old Communist-era ethnological film about them. I had saved it on my laptop, and then when I returned home I transferred it to my desktop. Two computer swaps later I wasn’t even sure it was still there. Of course, a quick search was all it took to locate the files in a long-unvisited set of subfolders buried inside a folder labeled “Chinese documentaries.” I could not immediately open it, however, because I had originally ripped the VCD into a disk image using, Toast, a program that I long ago gave up using. Fortunately, after a bit of searching on the web, I found a workaround. Lesson about not using proprietary formats learned.

The film is simply called The Oroqen (鄂倫春族) and was produced by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Institute of Ethnic Studies in September 1963.

Anyway, this morning I while reviewing the Oroqen file I watched a bit and was surprised to discover an additional film stuck on the end—one about the Naxi People of Lijiang, entitled Lijiang Naxi Culture and Art  (丽江纳西族文化艺术) released by the Beijing Social Science Education Film Studio in 1966. 1966 was the same year that the Cultural Revolution began. Here is that documentary:

I don’t have time today for any commentary about the videos, but the post-revolutionary narration of these two groups into Marxist national history is particularly clear at the end of each clip.

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