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date: 26 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The red martyr holds a special place in the collective memory of communist nations. In the Chinese pantheon of red martyrs, Norman Bethune, a renowned Canadian doctor who died during his selfless support of China’s anti-imperialist war against Japan, occupies a unique place. Bethune was sacralized as the ultimate symbol of internationalism by Mao Zedong in his essay “In Memory of Norman Bethune.” Much of the commemorative art about Bethune inevitably entails performing exegetic exercises of the Mao text. Using the 1962 compilation documentary In Memory of Norman Bethune and the 1964 biopic Doctor Bethune as examples, this article examines specific narrative strategies utilized in the cinematic memorialization of Bethune. It argues that despite their diverging styles and innovative engagements with the Mao text, both films perpetuate the political reification of the spirit of Bethune as proletarian internationalism incompatible with humanitarianism, while consolidating the political power of central authorities.

Keywords: Norman Bethune, red martyr, internationalism, proletarian internationalism, humanism, cinematic memorialization, Chinese socialist cinema, Zhang Junxiang

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