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An American Director Shoots a Sequel in China More Than Half a Century Later
In 1957 Robert Carl Cohen became the first American allowed to shoot film in the Republic of China. His work became part of an American television documentary, “Inside Red China.”

In 1957 Robert Carl Cohen became the first American allowed to shoot film in the Republic of China. His work became part of an American television documentary, “Inside Red China.”

Now, more than a half century later, after compiling a full career as a film director and producer, Cohen has retaken the road and returned to Guangzhou and other Chinese cities to document the immense changes that have taken place in the country. He finished shooting his new documentary in October. Tentatively titled “Robert Carl Cohen’s Journey in China”, the new film will be televised in both the United States and China, according to current plans. Dates have yet to be set.

Guangzhou was one of eight cities featured in each of the two films. Cohen returned to the city, full of old memories, to shoot scenes and sites for his new look at China.

"I like today’s Guangzhou better,” Cohen told the Guangzhou Daily. He rediscovered old landmarks in the city like the Oi Kwan Hotel and Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hospital that survived the country’s metamorphosis and reminded him of the city’s past. But he also observed many changes, such as the gleaming new skyscrapers that lord over the once dusty banks of the Pearl River.

"I would never say the China I shot is the whole of China,” Cohen said, “but I can promise that it is the real China.”

During his visit 58 years ago, Cohen arrived in Beijing and debarked on a journey of six weeks. He traveled across eight cities from north to south, using his camera to record scenes of places like the Guangzhou’s Pearl River, Beijing Children’s Hospital, Nanjing University, West Lake in Hangzhou, the Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge, and Soozhow Creek in Shanghai. Cohen helped the world get to know Guangzhou as well as China itself.

Today's Pearl River

"I think my work made a contribution to relieve the tension between China and America, even though it’s not worthy of mention,” Cohen once told NBC News - his employer when he came to China in 1957.

Although “Inside Red China” enjoyed worldwide attention, Cohen still feels the work is imperfect. Due to limited roll film and other restrictions, he had to confine what he saw in six weeks to 40 minutes of black-and-white film. Therefore, he was eager to retrace the road that he had taken 58 years ago to show the world the road China has traveled since then.

When he returned this year, Cohen was shocked by some of the great changes he saw in Guangzhou. “I’m 85 years old now,” he explained. “I wanted to get back to Guangzhou to have another look at it.” It took several years’ preparation before Cohen began shooting the new documentary, which is now in the post-production stage. In revisited the eight cities he once shot, Cohen was overcome by the radical changes he found. Soon, he hopes to share the new China he has discovered with citizens in both China and the United States.

(By Jessie Huang, Louis Berney)
Editor:Cassie Lin
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