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Filmmaker Discusses Experiences Growing Up in China During Cultural Revolution

September 21, 2004

Filmmaker Dr. Carma Hinton recalled some of her experiences growing up in China and as a teenager during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution before presenting her two-hour documentary, 'Morning Sun,' at Mount Union College on September 20.

Dr. Carma Hinton (left) is introduced by Dr. Liangwu Yin, associate professor of history and director of the non-western studies program at Mount Union College.

'Morning Sun' attempts to create an inner history of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1964 ' 1976). The documentary provides a perspective of the period through the eyes of people born around the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, who became teenagers during the Cultural Revolution.

Hinton was born to American parents living in Beijing in 1949. It was not until she came to the United States to study, at the age of 21, that she learned to speak English. Growing up as a Chinese-born American, as she refers to herself, has made Hinton's perspective very different from others, and she believes it has affected her outlook on life in general.

'I see things in many shades of gray,' said Hinton. 'Most people simply see things from one perspective.'

She recalls initially being 'thrilled' by the Cultural Revolution, but said eventually 'horrible things began to happen.'

'It was liberating to realize we could challenge the powers that be,' recalled Hinton. 'But then things began to go way beyond the boundaries.'

The Cultural Revolution is something that is still not talked about in China, according to Hinton, so making the documentary required her to do her research and interviews quietly.

Hinton, who has taught Chinese language, history and culture at Wellesley College, Swarthmore College and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), says that there is something for everyone to learn from the events of the Cultural Revolution, particularly in light of current events.

'This lesson goes way beyond China,' said Hinton. 'In every culture and every part of this world this type of extreme persecution can happen. I have seen some events recently in the United States that remind me of my experiences in China, where people are reacting with distain for others who have a different opinion than they do. This is America! There is supposed to be open debate and dialogue. But this clinging to a single-minded ideology is an all-too-human impulse, and we should all guard against that.'

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