Third Generation filmmakers shaped the aesthetics of Communist cinema, creating works that showed the tortuousness of the Chinese revolutionary wars leading up to 1949 and the sacrifices made by the people; life and reality in old China, denouncing its social darkness and praising laborers who rose up in resistance; and changes made after 1949, reflected in new persons and phenomena that appeared in the socialist revolution. This filmmaking period lasted until 1966, after which, during the decade of the dreaded Cultural Revolution, the industry almost came to a standstill, save for a few praiseworthy films such as Shan shan de hong xing ( Sparkling Red Star , 1974), Chuang ye (Pioneers, 1974), and Haixia (1975).

Among the films about revolutionary forerunners, Cheng Yin's Gang tie zhan shi ( Iron-Willed Fighter , 1950) and, with codirector Tang Xiaodan, Nan zheng bei zhan ( From Victory to Victory , 1952), stood out; Su Li's Ping yuan you ji dui ( Guerrillas on the Plain , 1955) and Guo Wei's Dong cunrui (1955) were also warmly received. The latter, along with Xiao bing zhang ga ( Zhang Ga a Little Soldier , 1963) and Sparkling Red Star , led in the children-as-revolutionary category, and Xie Jin's Hong se niang zi juan ( Red Detachment of Women , 1961) topped the list of women's films. The most successful films of the modern Chinese anti-invasion wars were Zheng Junli's Lin Zexu (1959), about the Opium War of 1838 to 1841, and Lin Nong's Jia wu feng yun ( Battle of 1894 , 1962).

Films that denounced pre-1949 China often possessed a moving ideological and artistic spirit and were adapted from literary works of masters such as Lu Xun, Mao Dun, and Rou Shi. Perhaps the best were Shui Hua and Wang Bin's Bai mao nü ( The White-haired Girl , 1950) and Sang Hu's Zhu fu ( New Year Sacrifice , 1956), which was adapted from Lu Xun's novel of the same name. Others were Shui Hua's Lin jia pu zi (Lin family shop, 1959), from Mao Dun's novel; Shi Hui's Wo zhe yi bei zi ( This Life of Mine , 1950), Xie Jin's Wutai jiemei ( Stage Sisters , 1965), and Li Jun's Nong nu ( Serfdom , 1963). The oppression suffered by intellectuals in old China was featured in works such as Xie Tieli's Zao chun er yue ( On the Threshold of Spring , 1963), based on a Rou Shi novel.

Many Third Generation directors focused on life in the new China, showing it as a time of new persons and new worlds united enthusiastically to serve the socialist revolution. Their films included Qiao (Bridge, 1949), directed by Wang Bin, and Chuang ye (Pioneers, 1974), by Yu Yanfu; both these works held the selflessness of the working class in high regard. Other films showed the new life in rural areas or depicted the role of Chinese People's Volunteers who fought in the Korean War in the early 1950s, such as Shang gan ling (Battle of Sangkumryung, 1956) and Ying xiong er nü ( Heroic Sons and Daughters , 1964).

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