The other day I saw a posting on the MCLC e-list (a list on Chinese culture that I belong to) which was an interview with Chinese cinema scholar Chris Berry about Cultural Revolution cinema. The article was originally published on the dGenerate website and can be found here. During the interview, Chris mentioned a man named Liu Debao, known as the "Red Collector," who has collected over 3,600 film reels from the Mao era. Since Mr. Liu lives in Shanghai, I was immediately interested in finding out his contact info. I teach a course on the Mao Era for the NYU Shanghai program and am always on the lookout for interesting people and places to see relating to that era. So I posted an inquiry on MCLC. Immediately, a Harvard scholar named Ying Qian responded and told me that she was in Shanghai and was planning to visit Mr. Liu. She invited me to come with her. Ying is completing a doctoral dissertation at Harvard under one of my former advisors from Columbia, David Der-wei Wang, on the subject of Mao era documentary film. I took her up on the offer and yesterday morning we visited Mr. Liu at his photo studio, the "White Cloud", on Caoyang Road.
The studio is full of photos, newspapers, and other memorabilia from the Mao years, including many photos of him posing with famous silver screen icons of the Mao years.
Mr. Liu was abuzz with energy as he pointed out some of his prize possessions. We posed for this photo in his studio.
After dealing with a couple of clients, he took us over to his warehouse down the road, where he stores his collection of film reels.
Ying was interested in seeing one in particular. I didn't get to stick around since I had another meeting, but I'm sure I'll be back by the end of this semester along with my China Under Mao class to spend some more time with Mr. Liu and hear his stories of his revolutionary days when as a young Red Guard he traveled to Beijing to meet the Great Helmsman. Maybe we will also get to see a film from his unique collection. Thanks Chris Berry and Ying Qian for connecting me and my class with this intriguing Red Collector!