The Mao Years

This two-hour documentary continues the China: A Century of Revolution. It looks at China during the tumultuous quarter-century of Mao Zedong’s rule, from 1949 to 1976. Combining rare archival footage with remarkable first hand interviews, The Mao Years opens a window on a nation that, for much of the period, seemed closed and incomprehensible. Included are never-before-seen images of Mao, Deng Xiaoping and other leaders working and relaxing; cataclysmic events like the Great Leap Forward and the terrible famine it produced; the chaos of the Cultural Revolution; the historic visit of President Nixon; and personal stories of hope and pride, terror and repression.

Press Reviews

“It’s what a documentary should be: rigorous, eye-opening and educational in the best sense of the word…Through the use of archival footage and superb interviews with witnesses writer/producer/director Sue Williams has somehow managed to avoid every possible pitfall.”
New York Post

“Remarkable…a chronicle of achievement, misadventure, cruelty and havoc.”
—The New York Times

“Sue Williams, the writer/producer/director of 1989′s award winning China in Revolution 1911–1949, returns with an equally engrossing and much more appalling sequel, The Mao Years 1949–1976.”
New York Magazine


A film by Ambrica Productions, Inc. in association with WGBH Boston and Channel 4 Television, U.K.

Written, Directed and Produced by: Sue Williams
Coordinating Producer: Kathryn Dietz
Editor: Howard Sharp
Narrator: Will Lyman
Composer: Tan Dun
Executive Producer for Ambrica Productions: Judith Vecchione

Major funding provided by The National Endowment for the Humanities.
Additional grants from The Ford Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Albert Kunstadter Family Foundation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.