Influenced by uprising visual education around the world and the recognition of the central role of children since the 20th century, children-aimed film education was promoted by intellectuals and educators in early Republican China. With the discovery of children in the developmental discourse of nation-state, the adults recognized the cultural and national value of children and educated them through films by imitating Euro-American countries. This trend became even more urgent and influential when the Kuomintang (KMT) came into power and Republican China achieved formally unification since 1927.
Based on newspapers, journals, institutional reports, governmental policies, and law, and historical archives, this paper explores how semi-government organizations and the government conducted film education towards children during the Nanjing Decade, including imposing on film censorship, conducting school-based film education, screening selected children’s films during The Children Year, and even projecting party-state political ideologies onto children’s screens. At the same time, this paper would also consider the practical effects and contemporary responses from below, such as cinema managers, educators, parents and children themselves, to examine the ruptures and inconsistency of these seemingly ambitious plans.
In this context, this paper argues that film education towards children corresponded with KMT’s intention to build up a developmental state, through regulating the screens, the party-state attempted to shape modern citizens and national subjects in coping with global competition. However, the lack of strong governance, financial support, and active cooperation with the society bred the seeds of failures and finally led to an unfledged experiment.