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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "China in Revolution" or "The Mao Years" or "Born Under the Red Flag")


directed by Sue Williams
USA 1989


Towards the end of the 20th Century, director Sue Williams was in charge of three documentaries about China. These documentaries were made before China had become known as an economic behemoth. During the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, the West was both fearful of and curious about the cloistered Communist countries of Eastern Europe and Asia. “Neutral” documentaries, like those by Sue Williams, were many Westerners’ first exposure to China.

These documentaries cover much of China during the 20th Century, beginning with the overthrowing of the Qing Dynasty by Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionary forces around 1911 and ending during the mid-1990s when rapid economic development introduced de-stabilizaing elements into society. China in Revolution is the first and perhaps most-remarkable of the three documentaries--remarkable because it offers rare footage of historical figures such as Chiang Kai-shek before he was the most powerful man in China. China in Revolution covers the ground between 1911 and 1949, the year of the Nationalists’ withdrawal to Taiwan.

The Mao Years (1949-1976) chronicles what happened during Mao Zedong’s leadership. While an excellent revolutionary, Mao was not a capable head of state. He repeatedly plunged China into chaos and starvation, and his death signaled the end of the socialist experience. Born Under the Red Flag will offer fairly familiar sights to people who’ve been following Chinese news for the past 15 to 20 years. Though produced and released in 1997, Born Under the Red Flag doesn’t take viewers right up to the end of British colonial rule in Hong Kong. China’s current economic boom started in the 1980s when Deng Xiaoping allowed a couple of coastal cities to develop capitalist economic systems. While this has obviously raised the standards of living for many Chinese people, it also gives the people of Hong Kong a taste of what might happen to them eventually after the 50-year period of “one country, two systems” ends in 2046.

David McCoy

Theatrical Release: TV (PBS): 1989, 1994, 1997

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DVD Review: Zeitgeist (3-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to David McCoy for the Review!

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Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 360 min

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English and Chinese
Subtitles Optional Simplified Chinese
Features Release Information:
Studio: Zeitgeist

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• booklet

DVD Release Date: 10 July 2007
custom three-disc keepcase

Chapters 46





The documentaries are presented in their TV broadcast ratio of 1.33:1. The footage is a varied mix of vintage newsreels and analog video clips. Therefore, the quality is also a varied mix. The image quality is capped by the source materials, most of which were in degraded condition or were limited to 480 lines of resolution. From what I can tell, the video is interlaced, probably due to the cameras that were used in production. Therefore, you’re not going to get something along the lines of a Pixar feature, but this shouldn’t disappoint you.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English and Chinese track is basically what you’d expect from a TV documentary. Although dynamic range is rather limited (muffled explosions, brittle highs), the narrator and interviewees’ voices are clear and intelligible. There are a few diegetic and non-diegetic music cues, but they are mostly played for background ambience and are not meant to attract attention to themselves.

Optional Simplified Chinese subtitles support the audio.

Perhaps due to the purely informational nature of the documentaries themselves, this set does not have any disc-based extras.

The three discs are housed in a thick custom keepcase. A small booklet provides chapter listings, production credits, and DVD credits.

 - David McCoy


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Region 1 - NTSC


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