Mao’s Last Dancer

I watched Mao’s Last Dancer at the movies last night. I haven’t read the book. I didn’t even know what the movie was about (It’s just that there was nothing else at the Dendy that I really wanted to watch). Just before the movie began, my friend told me that it was based on a true story. So that kinda heightened my interest.The movie shows us Li’s journey from a poor family in China to a prolific ballet dancer in America. He is chosen by the Chinese officials on the insistence of his teacher to be one of the students to train in ballet at Beijing. We see his trials and tribulations and ultimately his chance to go to the US for three months. In the US, he realises what it is like to be free…to an extent. He decides to extend his stay by marrying the American girl he loves. This is met by disapproval from the Chinese consulate and the government back in China and he is kept hostage. Finally, the decision is made to allow him to stay in America but he is not permitted to enter China ever again.

I really enjoyed the movie even though I’m not a huge fan of dancing (I blame having two left feet for that). The dancing was amazing…especially the strength of the dancers. But more importantly, the journey of Li from China to America was incredible. My history of China is close to zero. I am aware of the communist rule and of Mao Zedong but that’s as far as it goes.

The movie was a great insight into Chinese history. How Big Brother was always watching. And always telling them what to do. How a person could not comment on the government. And how they pretty much were brainwashed about the views of the world.

For me personally, there were a few shades of similarities between Li’s life and my life. No, I did not have as hard a life as he did. But the part of coming to a new country, not really knowing anyone and then wanting this country to be my home and wanting it so badly were all things I could empathise with. I could also identify with what it would be like to not see or have any contact with my family. I love Australia but I would be devastated if I couldn’t have any contact whatsoever with my parents and sister back in India.

It made me see what most of us take for granted — freedom. As much as I do not like things about India, I am glad we had freedom of speech. I mean, you can question things about the government without necessarily getting arrested. And in countries like Australia and the US and UK where there is so much more freedom, we forget just how important it is.

We don’t realise that just being able to think the way we want to think is a huge deal. We don’t realise that being able to choose is freedom. We don’t realise that wearing whatever we want to wear is freedom. We don’t realise that choosing our own career path is freedom. We don’t realise that even walking by ourselves without having to constantly look over our shoulders is freedom.

And I am so grateful for being free. It is unfortunate that I need movies and books to remind me of that.

Until next time,


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  • Titaxy
    18 October 2009 at 2:35 am

    it’s true with everything, no? if we have something, we usually don’t realize the worth and take it for granted…

    anyway, movie sounds like a good one..will watch it when i get a chance

  • Psych Babbler
    18 October 2009 at 8:57 am

    @ Titaxy: Yes it sure is! Take wearing jeans/trousers for eg…in some countries women are not allowed to do that. And yet it’s something we wear almost everyday without realising how lucky we are to actually be able to choose what we want to wear! Do watch the movie and let me know what you think…

  • The Ketchup Girl
    23 October 2009 at 3:43 am

    i saw this too- ALL ALONE in a movie hall with another couple, who were very busy making out. *disgusting*. Anyway, i cried by the end of the film- esp when his parents are brought in to see his performance. what an inspiring film!

  • Psych Babbler
    23 October 2009 at 10:45 am

    @ KG: Nice! I’ve only been to one movie by myself so far. Yeah during the bit you mentioned, I had tears streaming down my face as well….going to try and read the book now.

  • ani_aset
    27 October 2009 at 11:51 am

    give dancing a shot PB its fun..and it keeps you fit at same time..and at the endof it you will not have two left feets 😀

  • Psych Babbler
    2 November 2009 at 9:31 am

    @ Ani: Lol…nah don’t like dancing. Have tried and not liked it. In terms of fitness I prefer spending money on going to the gym and lifting weights. 🙂