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Bethune: The Making of a Hero (1990)

Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune journeys 1500 miles into China to reach Mao Zedong's eighth route army in the Wu Tai mountains where he will build hospitals, provide care, and train medics.... See full summary »

Director:

Phillip Borsos

Writers:

Ted Allan, Ted Allan (novel)
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1 win & 9 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Donald Sutherland ... Dr. Norman Bethune
Helen Mirren ... Frances Penny Bethune
Helen Shaver ... Mrs. Dowd
Colm Feore ... Chester Rice
James Pax ... Mr. Tung
Da Guo Da Guo ... Dr. Chian (as Guo Da)
Harrison Liu Harrison Liu ... Dr. Fong
Anouk Aimée ... Marie-France Coudaire
Ronald Pickup ... Alan Coleman
Geoffrey Chater ... Dr. Archibald
Zong-yao Tan Zong-yao Tan ... General Nieh (as Tan Zong Yao)
Ke-Yaw Zhang Ke-Yaw Zhang ... Chairman Mao (as Zhang Ke Yaw)
Iñaki Aierra ... Dr. Salvador (as Inaki Ayerra)
Li Hai Lang Li Hai Lang ... Shiao
Yvan Ponton ... Frank Coudaire
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Storyline

Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune journeys 1500 miles into China to reach Mao Zedong's eighth route army in the Wu Tai mountains where he will build hospitals, provide care, and train medics. Flashbacks narrate the earlier events of his life: a bout with tuberculosis at the Trudeau sanatorium; the self-administration of an experimental pneumothorax; the invention of operative instruments; his fascination with socialism; a journey into medical Russia; and the founding of a mobile plasma transfusion unit in war-torn Spain. Bethune twice married and twice divorced his wife, Frances who chooses abortion over child-rearing in her unstable marriage. By 1939, Bethune had been dismissed from his Montreal Hospital for taking unconventional risks and from his volunteer position in Spain for his chronic problems of drinking and womanizing. As his friend states: "China was all that was left." Even there, Bethune confidently ignores the advice of Chinese officials, until heavy casualties make him ... Written by Duffin, Jacalyn

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

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Details

Country:

Canada | China | France

Language:

English

Release Date:

17 September 1993 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Dr. Bethune See more »

Filming Locations:

Montréal, Québec, Canada See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Filmline International See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo

Color:

Color
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The poem Bethune recites to his wife ("Buffalo Bill's defunct") is by E.E. Cummings. See more »

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User Reviews

 
As as a student of Chinese History I loved this movie.
25 July 2012 | by giosvigorSee all my reviews

Contrary to the guy who said that they actors should be ashamed of themselves for promoting Communist propaganda, they should be proud for telling an inspiring story about an inspiring revolution. Indeed it's refreshing to see something that doesn't try to slander socialism and Mao. Maybe that is why this film was not widely seen and promoted.

Dr. Bethune was right, and is still right even with everything we know today. The film is correct in portraying these historical events in the positive light they should be portrayed, contrary to popular Western fashion.

Mao was not a murderer, he was a revolutionary hero, like Bethune, and saved millions of lives.

Keep in mind that Mao led the Chinese revolution which lifted millions out of poverty and illiteracy. It was in fact the largest transition out of poverty in human history.

The land reform was the biggest exchange of land in human history. There were indeed mistakes made during the transition out of capitalist (even feudalistic) economic relations and into a more socialistic economy and social structure. But to be fair the capitalist transition took a long time, failed several times, and committed outright crimes. Mao led the largest land reform in world history -- changing agriculture for 500 million people and ending feudalism.

The reorganizing feudal agriculture by leading a peasant agrarian revolution did cause disruptions to the food supply, but this is not "sanctioning the killing of millions." We never hear claims that say Lincoln "sanctioned the killing of 3 million people" because his election caused the civil war, and the civil war had sweeping consequences on both civilians and soldiers. The historical documents do make clear that whatever one thinks about Mao and the short comings, they do make clear that Mao's intentions was to create a deeply democratic (for the oppressed classes) society where the masses of people would be the rulers of their own destiny. Mao led a civil war, then a radical land reform and a series of unique political movements let led to a remarkable socialist society in China for several decades.

There are lots of sensationalist books that critics quote, but if you look at the sources, and esp. the review by China specialists after they had time to review it, you will see it gets lambasted in severe ways. For example the Chang and Halliday book, "Mao: The Unknown Story," is almost always cited and in vogue. The work is regarded by specialists as "faction--fiction with a cloak of facts.' David S. G. Goodman, Professor of Contemporary China Studies for example, compared the book to "The DaVinci Code, saying that it purports to show a "a conspiracy of academics and scholars who have chosen not to reveal the truth." Goodman argued that "the 'facts' in The Da Vinci Code are about as reliable as those to be found in...Mao: The Unknown Story." Goodman argued that the book could even be thought of as a "form of fiction" where "a strong narrative" is "a substitute for evidence and argument." One of my favorite China historians, who I used to correspond with when I was doing some research on this very topic is Prof. Mobo Gao, and in his new book, he devotes a whole chapter to that sad affair of "The Unknown Story." His book is, "The Battle for China's Past: Mao and the Cultural Revolution" by Prof. Gao. Find on Amazon.

The reviews of the Chang and Halliday work reveal a very dubious methodology, that it exaggerates numbers, fakes evidence, provides anecdotal reading to events, etc. But this work receives praise universally from everywhere except for the field the work is suppose to contribute scholarly information to, China Studies. Nearly all China Studies scholars, even those very close politically to Chang and Halliday, have in one sense rebuked this work, yet it remains popular and cited by people as if it has any scholarly validity.


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