Practice GIF Reminder (due Sun 3/26 at 5 pm)

Hi All!

A reminder that practice GIFs — either the ones you made in class or a new one you’ve tried out (the latter is better, as it gives you a chance to review and nail down the skills!) — are due VIA EMAIL to sfernseb [at] umw [dot] edu by THIS SUNDAY, 3/26, AT 5 PM.

Note: the syllabus says send a separate write-up. Just ignore that! The image by itself is fine.

Meanwhile, keep working on your research papers… and don’t forget that after our next film, ERMO, which we’re watching on Monday, Film Analysis #2 will be due (one week later, on Monday, 4/3).

Week 10: Syllabus Updated and GIF Workshop Info

We survived the weather last week (minus our class meeting.) Notes for this week:

Our syllabus has been updated. Please see the new syllabus and adjust dates in your calendar as needed.

GIF workshop is tomorrow night (3/20) as noted in last week’s announcement. Please bring computers and be sure to have the appropriate software loaded. See our previous GIF post for instructions.

Don’t forget this week’s R-Log, due Sunday night (3/19) by midnight

Snow Day Update

Snow (or ice?) day. Which means we’re pushing our GIF workshop back a week. Here’s the plan:

  • Head back to our GIF Workshop Post and catch up on installing the app’s for the GIF workshop, which we’ll have next Monday, 3/20…
  • How to get ahead on next week’s work: Since we’ve had a snow day push  us back, next week you’ll be doing two assignments: making a practice GIF and doing an R-Log about one of your sources for that project. Want to get ahead? Go ahead and do that R-Log this week. I’ll post the thread here

Scheduling note: our next paper, film analysis #2, will now due one week later (on 4/3), as we will not be watching the film Ermou, until 3/27. I’ll share a full schedule update in class when we return next week.

Ready to Start GIFFING? Here’s what you need to prepare…

f3c8d79cfd86128ea637524302e22641The dude. One scene that says it all? Just a handful of frames in motion. And the meaning conveyed… miles of it to contemplate. (Sidenote: someone needs to get these couches for the HCC.)

Here’s our plan for next week and how to prepare:

1. Monday, 3/13 = GIF Workshop. BRING COMPUTERS! And plugs. Be charged up.

2. DOWNLOAD PROGRAMS AHEAD OF TIME: And download two free programs in advance:

a) MPEG Streamclip –

b) GIMP –

These both work on either Windows or Mac. Download them from the links above.

Note: These are free, commonly used programs. Download them from their main sites. As always, be sure you’re clicking the program itself and not an advertisement that also appears on a website. (And, as always, be sure your anti-virus programs are up to date.)

3. REVIEW TUTORIAL. For a leg up on what we’re going to be doing, have a look at this tutorial (book mark it for later, too, as a reference for after our workshop, it’ll be a help.) A video on the topic is available too.

4. Finally, if you don’t have a laptop computer, try installing these programs on your home machine and give the tutorial a good read through. We won’t be able to do a loaner computer as we can’t install software on them, but you’ll be able to look on with a classmate Monday night and then go home and give it a go for our practice GIF Assignment that’s due on Sunday, 3/19.

If you — or anyone in class — runs into problems, glitches, or would like help, there’s always the Digital Knowledge Center for help! Schedule a tutorial with a student assistant there, where they offer special assistance with media projects!


Preview: In the Heat of the Sun (阳光灿烂的日子, d. Jiang Wen, 1994)

“In the Heat of the Sun” 阳光灿烂的日子 (d. Jiang Wen, 1994)

Main characters / actors:

Ma Xiaojun (“Monkey”) – Xia Yu

Mi Lan – Ning Jing


The film is set in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution. It is told from the perspective of Ma Xiaojun nicknamed Monkey, who is a teenage boy at the time. Monkey and his friends are free to roam the streets of Beijing day and night because the Cultural Revolution has caused their parents and most adults to be either busy or away. Most of the story happens during one summer and revolves around Monkey’s dalliances with his roguish male friends and his subsequent angst-filled crush with one of the female characters, Mi Lan (Ning Jing).

This film is significant in its unique perspective of the Cultural Revolution. Far from the Cultural Revolution-set films of Chinese 5th-generation filmmakers (Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, Tian Zhuangzhuang) which puts the era behind a larger historical backdrop, In The Heat Of the Sun portrays memories of that era with somewhat positive and personal resonances. It also acknowledges, as the narrator recalls, that he might have misremembered parts of his adolescence as stated in the prologue: “Change has wiped out my memories. I can’t tell what’s imagined from what’s real.” Memory is a complicated thing.

[adapted from Wikipedia summary]

Preview: Farewell my Concubine (霸王別姬, d. Chen Kaige, 1993)

This week’s film is “Farewell My Concubine” [Chinese title: 霸王別姬]. Directed by Chen Kaige and released in 1993, it’s an epic drama depicting the historic turmoil of over fifty years of twentieth-century Chinese history. The film also provides a close look at an intimate friendship of the two main characters, Douzi (Leslie Cheung) and Shitou (Zhang Fengyi), as well as the relationship between both of these characters and Shitou’s wife, Juxian (Gong Li) amid the complexities of that era’s political upheaval.

The film runs 171 minutes — which will have our class meeting running over by 10 minutes for just film viewing itself — so we’ll be moving our post-film discussion online this week. See the thread I’ll be posting at our regular discussion page and hop in after your viewing! (Participation in the post-film thread will provide extra credit towards your class participation grade this week.)

Don’t forget our R-Log this week, with a posting thread ready at our course discussion page…



Preview: Red Sorghum (1987, 红高粱, d. Zhang Yimou)

Red Sorghum (1987)

Film title: Red Sorghum 高粱

Director and year: Zhang Yimou (1987)

Loosely based on the novel Red Sorghum by Mo Yan (winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in literature). For more translations & helpful abstracts of Mo Yan’s work, see the MCLC bibliography.

Main characters:

Jiu’er, the narrator’s grandmother, played by Gong Li. A poor girl facing an arranged marriage with a husband-to-be who owns a distillery and is also afflicted by leprosy.

Narrator’s Grandpa, played by Jiang Wen. Hired sedan carrier who carries Jiu’er to her arranged marriage…

Uncle Luohan, played by Teng Rujun. Brewer at the estate of the husband-to-be.


The film takes place in a rural village in China’s eastern province of Shandong during the Second Sino-Japanese War. It is narrated from the point of view of the protagonist’s grandson, who reminisces about his grandmother, Jiu’er (S: 九儿, T: 九兒, P: Jiǔ’ér). She was a poor girl who was sent by her parents into a pre-arranged marriage with an older man. This man, Li Datou, who owned a distillery, suffered from leprosy.

As her wedding party crosses a field of sorghum, they are attacked by a bandit with a pistol. The hired sedan carrier fights off the assailant. After Jiu’er and the contingent reaches the winery, the man disappears. He returns to the screen while Jiu’er is returning to her parents’ house for a short visit. We see him wearing the same mask as the man who attacked them three days before. He kidnaps Jiu’er and after a short chase, reveals his identity. A sexual exchange follows in the field of sorghum.

Later, after the leper is mysteriously murdered, the young widow takes over the distillery, which has fallen on hard times. She inspires the workers to take new pride in their wine, and once again meets the man who saved her life. He arrives drunk and tries to claim her, telling the distillery workers how he deflowered her and that he is going to sleep in her room, but she tosses him out. He sleeps in a liquor vat for three days, while some bandits kidnapped Jiu’er and asked for ransom, which the distillery workers pay.

The man comes back again as they make the first batch of liquor. He takes four vats of the liquor and urinates in them. He meant it to anger Jiu’er, but somehow his urine makes the liquor taste better than ever before. The longtime distiller, Luohan, leaves in disgust, presumably because of her affair with the hired bearer and the resultant bastard son, the narrator’s father.

Meanwhile, as the Asian Pacific War begins in China (1937-1945), Imperial Japanese Army troops invade the area. The Japanese soldiers order forced laborers to flatten the sorghum fields. The widow Jiu’er and the winery workers are among the forced laborers. The Japanese then order a butcher to skin a bandit alive. The butcher resists, but is given a choice of death or skinning. Luohan is lost to the violence. The narrator then identifies many atrocities of the Japanese during the war and invokes the Communist guerrilla resistance.

Jiu’er and her distillery workers then have a liquor tasting ritual where they celebrate Luohan and his liquor, and Jiu’er recommends the distillery workers avenge his death. In the early dawn, they set an ambush and take liquor with them to use as a fire bomb. The outcome marks the culmination of the film in vivid imagery.

[adapted from Wikipedia summary]


Benson Readings Posted


Hey there! You can find our Benson readings online at the Readings page now as promised in class on Monday.  For this third edition of the book, please read pp. 47-77 for this coming Monday (2/6).

Remember that our Film Analysis #1 Assignment is due at the start of class in hardcopy. You can find a helpful Writing Checksheet and Plagiarism Tutorial among the links at our Writing Page.

Don’t forget that the UMW Library has its own page for help with citing sources (we use Chicago / Turabian in History–see our assignment) and that there’s also the very helpful folks at the UMW Writing Center (extra credit for visiting!)

Image: Li Lili in Queen of Sports (d. Sun Yu, 1934). Note: as you look ahead to research projects, if you’re interested in dipping back into the 1930s or 40s, come talk to me… Another place to find Chinese films? Internet Archive

Film Preview: “Red Detachment of Women” (d. Xie Jin1961) – Mon, 1/30

Red Detachment of Women (1961)

The Red Detachment of Women (Hongse niangzi jun, 红色娘子军), dir. Xie Jin, 1961.

On tropical Hainan Island, a group of courageous women pursue the communist battle against the Nationalists. WU Qionghua joins the group and becomes a proud leader after having suffered pain, humiliation and loss. The evil landlord NAN Batian had killed her father and taken Wu as his slave. She tried to escape but was always captured and punished. She was eventually freed by HONG Changqing, a communist agent disguised as a rich overseas Chinese arms dealer.

Wu joins the female detachment of the Red Army led by Hong. However, obsessed by her desire to seek revenge on Nan Batian, she is injured and endangers her comrades. Through correct communist education she is able to transform her personal hatred into class solidarity. After Hong is burnt to death by Nan Batian, Wu leads her women’s detachment in a successful offensive against the tyrant. He is captured, paraded through the streets and executed. Wu now takes over Hong’s command and continues the battle.

A ballet version of this story was produced in 1971 [see below for a clip from the ballet], and an opera version the following year.

(Summary from the Morning Sun website, adapted from Paola Voci and Yingjin Zhang’s entry on “The Red Detachment of Women” in Yingjin Zhang and Zhiwei Xiao, eds, Encyclopedia of Chinese Film, London: Routledge, 1998, p. 279.)

This film is the basis for our Film Analysis #1 Assignment, now available online. Be sure to review the assignment before our class meeting and take notes during the film to help you write your paper, which will be due at the start of class in Week 4 (2/6).

(Note: In Chinese, the surnames come first and personal names second. Surnames have been capitalized here for clarity.)

A scene from the 1971 ballet version of “Red Detachment of Women” in which Wu Qionghua joins the Red Detachment, devoting herself to Communism. Link. The full version of the 1971 ballet can be found at the Internet Archive.

Film Analysis #1 Assignment Posted

Shao Wenjin - Strike the battle drum of the Great Leap Forward ever louder

Our first paper assignment, the short (750 word) Film Analysis #1 is now posted — its focus is the film we’re viewing on Monday night, “Red Detachment of Women.” Be sure to give it a read before the film viewing and take good notes on Monday. See our Assignments page for more.

Remember that assignments are due in hardcopy at the start of class on the day they are due. See syllabus for full details.

Image: Shao Wenjin, Feb. 1959, “Strike the Battle Drum of the Great Leap Forward Ever Louder” (Ba dayuejinde zhangu qiaode geng xiang (把大跃进的战鼓敲的更响)) Publisher: Tianjin meishu chubanshe (天津美术出版社) Landsberger collection at [an excellent resource for visual culture of the period we’re studying… see link.]