How a young farming boy from Canterbury, Rewi Alley, became a trusted friend of the Chinese Communist Party for over 60 years and the role he played in the momentous political events of mid-twentieth-century China
After experiencing the horrors of WW1, young kiwi farm boy Rewi Alley passionately believed a new society must be created. Disenchanted with post-war NZ and feeling an outsider, perhaps due to his hidden homosexuality, Alley travelled to China in 1927, a time when very few westerners did. He became friends with influential free-thinking westerners living in China, and helped establish Chinese Industrial Cooperatives, technical training schools, from which the slogan “gung ho” (work together) entered the English language. For a young liberated rural Kiwi boy who embraced revolutionary politics Shanghai in the 1930s and 40s was a place of unimagined freedoms. The city attracted artists, writers, socialists and philosophers from around the world. Alley became a prolific writer about 20th century China and the Communist revolution. He lived in China for 60 years and dedicated his life to the cause of the Communist Party of China, as well as improving the lives of millions of Chinese through his education reforms. Using historic archives, illustrations, diaries and published writings, plus interviews with Kiwis and Chinese academics, historians and writers, the film re-examines Rewi's life as an outsider in Shanghai, and his achievements through a contemporary lens.