China From the Inside
"China is at a critical point in its history — it is richer and stronger than ever, but the clash between economic policies and the Communist political agenda complicates the lives of many of its citizens. China from the Inside includes perspectives ranging from those of the powerful to the powerless, the scholars and the uneducated, and the supporters and detractors of today’s China. It does not shy away from China’s many contradictions, with scenes from some of the most breathtaking places on the planet as well as the most polluted. " [Text from web site]
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This film offers students a very personal, inside perspective on China in the 21st century. Each episode presents challenging themes that would provoke great class discussion as well as critical reflection and writing. My criticisms of the film can be summed up in two points: length and perspective.
First, the series is four hours long and could not be viewed in its entirety in most classrooms. I felt that the series makes the most sense as a whole. There are themes that develop throughout the four episodes.
Second, I felt that CHINA FROM THE INSIDE presents a rather troubling view of modern China. Whether it is the authority of the Community Party, the discrimination of women, the environmental degradation and threats to public health, or the persecution of monks and activists, the documentary supports the dominant American perspective about China. While this series would be useful in a world history classroom, it must be contextualized so that students can see China as another country and political system for appreciation and comparison.
In sum, I think this is a detailed, well researched, serious piece of investigative reporting. However, like other films for classroom use, it requires thoughtful and creative engagement with the students. We should not take the images and interpretation of CHINA FROM THE INSIDE as the last word on China in the 21st century.