Zhu Xiao-Mei, How Bach Defeated Mao

A documentary on pianist Zhu Xiao-Mei

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Zhu Xiao-Mei — Pianist

Program notes

Music, and in particular Bach's music, enabled Zhu Xiao-Mei to face the greatest challenge of her life. This film follows her return to China after 35 years of exile, now as a recognized Bach specialist.

Under Mao's regime and as part of the Cultural Revolution, she suffered years of indoctrination and so-called "re-education"—including five years in a labor camp—and was left with a broken family and broken spirits. In 1980 she emigrated and made Paris her new home.

50 years after the Cultural Revolution, the celebrated pianist returns to a transformed China. Music schools are no longer considered a safe haven for counterrevolutionaries; playing an instrument is no longer a mark of Western bourgeoisie. Au contraire. To own a piano has become a desirable status symbol. Nonetheless, the last page of the Cultural Revolution has yet to be turned. Zhu Xiao-Mei fights constantly against forgetfulness, always reminding those around her that Chinese society remains profoundly marked by this dark period in its history.

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