Beijing before the start of the Cultural Revolution – a video by Bill Callahan
In the early 1960s, after being embarrassed at diplomatic events by the mistakes of his interpreters, Zhou Enlai decided that the Foreign Ministry needed to recruit English native speakers to train a new cadre of translators. Australians Colin and Alyce Mackerras answered Zhou’s call, and in August 1964 went to teach English at the Beijing Foreign Languages Institute for two years. Bill Callahan’s short video ‘China Bound 1964’ explores Colin’s experiences as he encountered a radically different way of life. Leaving China in September 1966, he witnessed the transformation of Chinese society provoked by the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.
The film shows how the fine-grained experience of everyday life – teaching class, riding a bike, having a baby – can convey unexpected meanings about grand geopolitical events. With thanks to Bill, ‘China Bound 1964’ is embedded below and also streamable on Vimeo: