Christopher Howard



Dreamcatcher From Mao’s Last Revolution is a filmmaking venture into creative social documentary production undertaken by this filmmaker as his own experimental departure from narrative feature film production and the fiction genre. This thesis report not only describes aspects of this film production that are specific to the methodology of documentary film production, but also describes the film’s cinematic expression of memory and the filmmaker’s telling of the story. Some cinematic and conceptual aspects of the story are related to the film’s influences, specifically to those theoretical concepts and techniques employed by documentary filmmaker, Werner Herzog.

The documentary story is primarily about the life of a Chinese woman named Shelly (Zhimei Xu), age 63, who was persecuted for ten years as a youth during the Chinese Cultural Revolution when hundreds of thousands of Chinese intellectuals and their families were denounced and millions of China’s educated urban youth were relocated to countryside villages. She obtained her U.S. citizenship in 2008 and returned to China the same year to experience the Summer Olympic Games and Olympic ceremonies in Beijing and visit her hometown of Suzhou and the countryside town of Huangjing, where she had lived for ten years with a surrogate family and worked as a farm laborer.

The premise of the documentary story is of the filmmaker’s making: A Chinese woman from Dallas, Texas, on the verge of becoming an American citizen, decides to attend the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and confronts her traumatic memory of China’s Great Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) which collided with her youthful and idyllic expectations for a higher-education.

This written report contextualizes and reflects on this filmmaker’s creative documentary process and production.