Xie Jin, who died on 18 October, was perhaps the most distinguished and best-loved film director in China. He was not well-known outside China for the simple reason that most of his films were not widely exported during the 1950s and 1960s. In the UK, it was not until the 1980s, after the Cultural Revolution, that his best known film Two Stage Sisters (1964) was distributed by the BFI in the UK and this was followed by a release for one of his later melodramas, Hibiscus Town (1987) through ICA Projects. These two films did allow UK film scholars to recognise Xie Jin’s ability to work with the conventions of Chinese socialist realism and to adapt and subvert them. Nevertheless, like the Fifth Generation directors who followed him, he struggled to make the films as he would have wanted without the pressures from authorities.
Xie Jin was one of the leading directors in global film during the second half of the 20th century. Because of the disruption to production during the Cultural Revolution, he was unable to work intensively during what should have been the prime period of his career. As a consequence he worked on only 30 features in a career spanning 50 years. However, some of these were seen by very large audiences. Notes on Two Stage Sisters follow this entry.