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Why this Film Matters
The Revolutionary is a story of personal and political ideals and disappointment, of fame and of infamy, of power and the abuse of power. Its events cover a period that ended more than 30 years ago but whose reverberations are still being felt today. It is important to connect the past to the present. During the past year alone, the Cultural Revolution has again become part of the political conversation in China and in the struggle among party factions holding different visions of China’s future and perhaps of the U.S.-China relationship as well. The Maoist years were marked by the isolation of America from China, years of animosity and distrust on both sides. Now, the U.S.-China relationship is critically interconnected, of singular importance as we move into a new century, all the more reason to pay attention to Sidney Rittenberg’s story. There has taken place in China a discussion of “historical amnesia.” As one writer has expressed it: “We’re still talking about the Opium War (of the 19th century) but we forgot about the Great Famine and the Cultural Revolution.” In China today, the famine of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, once labeled “China’s Holocaust,” have been all but removed from official histories and museums. Sidney Rittenberg bears witness to those missing chapters.