Huang Baomei

Ho Rui An

04 jun. 2024 • 1 min

Directed by Xie Jin, Huang Baomei (1958) is a docudrama based on the real-life experiences of the national model worker of the same name, who also plays herself in the film. Reflecting the economic priorities of the day following the launch of the Great Leap Forward – a far-reaching and ultimately devastating campaign that sought to replace the prevailing Soviet-style expert-managerial system with workers’ self-organisation and mass mobilisation – the film focuses on the challenges faced by machine operators as they strive for a technical breakthrough while working with their aging machines.

Located at No. 2866, Yangshupu Road, Shanghai No. 17 Cotton Mill, which had its origins in the Japanese-owned Yuho Spinning Company, was one of Shanghai’s best known cotton mills. The launch of China’s economic reforms opened a new era for the mill, as reflected cinematically in No. 17 Cotton Mill Shanghai Blues (1984), a British documentary that attests to the vibrant workers’ music scene blossoming within the factory walls. In 1992, the state-owned enterprise was restructured as one of the first batch of joint-stock companies in the Reform era and renamed Longtou Company, after the brand name of a fabric manufactured by the mill. Following the relocation of the mill’s original machinery to Jiangsu in 2007, work commenced to redesign the entire complex and relaunch it as the Shanghai International Fashion Center. In Jia Zhangke’s I Wish I Knew (2010), an elderly Huang Baomei is seen walking amidst the ruins that are all that remain of the cotton mill as it awaits refurbishment.

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Ho Rui An is an artist and writer working in the intersections of contemporary art, cinema, performance and theory. Through lectures, essays and films, his research examines the relations between labour, technology and capital across different systems of governance in a global age.

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