Mao Zedong, founding father and dictator of communist China, shaped his country like no other 20th century leader. In the 1960s, he plunged his country into the Cultural Revolution. This documentary tells the stories of European time witnesses. Only a few Westerners experienced the Cultural Revolution firsthand. One was Paul Crook, an Englishman whose parents had committed themselves to Mao’s socialist revolution in the 1940s. The Austrian Gudrun Alber even joined the Red Guards in northern China’s Shenyang as they launched themselves into a new class struggle on Mao’s behalf. In Western Europe, many students were gripped by Mao and his ideas. To them, he embodied a mix of Marxism and Asian wisdom – a leader who opposed US imperialism and had liberated socialism from its bureaucratic shackles. Reinhard Bütikofer, a politician from the environment-friendly Green party, was a history student in Heidelberg when he first became fascinated with Mao and his ideas. Daniele Palau from France even abandoned her studies to tout the Maoist revolution on the floors of the factory she worked at. But when both of them travelled to China in the early 1970s, their utopian ideas were severely put to the test. “Our Idol Mao Zedong” tells the story of several extraordinary Europeans whose lives became closely linked to Mao Zedong and his political campaigns – both inside and outside of the isolated country.

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