The Herdsman
(Mu Ma Ren)

Screening on Film
Directed by Xie Jin.
With Shimao Zhu, Cong Shan, Liu Qiong.
China, 1982, 35mm, color, 98 min.
Mandarin with English subtitles.
Print source: China Film Museum

After the success of Legend of Tianyun Mountain made him the foremost director whose work was explicitly critical of Maoist excesses, Xie turns again to this stance, this time using the genre of male melodrama. The film’s conflict revolves around the ambivalences of an estranged father and son to China and to each other. The father returns to Beijing from San Francisco thirty years after fleeing the defeat of the Nationalists. Meanwhile, his son has both suffered through the Cultural Revolution and found happiness raising horses in Inner Mongolia. Attuned as ever to shifting social currents in China, Xie avoided the controversy his previous film had attracted by bringing Chinese patriotism to the fore in order to resolve The Herdsman’s generational and ideological conflicts, just as the Communist Party was turning, under Deng Xiaoping, from Maoism to Nationalism.

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Xie Jin,
Before and After the Cultural Revolution