Director: Chen Kaige, Zhang Yibai, Guan Hu, Xue Xiaolu, Xu Zheng, Ning Hao, Wen Muye
Cast: Huang Bo, Zhang Yi, Wu Jing, Ma Yili, Du Jiang, Ge You Ge, Liu Haoran, Chen Feiyu, Song Jia
Runtime: 2 hrs 38 mins
Released By: mm2 Entertainment
Opening Day: 3 October 2019
Synopsis: An anthology film consists of 7 short stories directed by several different directors, which are based on 7 moments since the foundation of the People's Republic of China.
China deserves nothing less for its 70th birthday. In what some may feel is a gimmicky approach, this film uses historical events throughout the People's Republic of China(PRC) in its founding in October 1949. But it works so well that this reviewer can feel the patriotism from the film’s first frame to the last moments of the end credits.
This gift for the nation is competently made, featuring seven short films helmed by notable Chinese directors, and headed by the award winning veteran Chen Kaige. Some of the momentous events covered include the 1949 ceremony presided by Mao Zedong to mark the founding of the People’s Republic, the detonation of China’s first atomic bomb, the opening of the Beijing Olympics, and the landing of the Shenzhou 11 spacecraft.
Naturally, you can’t expect all seven segments to fare equally. The appeal factor is higher in some shorts than the others. In particular, Xu Zheng’s work about how a young boy must secure a TV satellite properly so that his townsfolk can watch the Chinese women’s volleyball team play in the 1984 Olympics is especially memorable. The casting is perfect, the lighthearted approach is engaging, and the message of sacrificing oneself for the good of others stands out adorably. Another segment which made an impression is Ning Hao’s humorous contribution about how a taxi driver (the ever reliable Ge You) scores a ticket to the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, and his encounter with a scruffy boy from Sichuan.
Then there are the ones that cast a serious tone that some viewers may appreciate. Guan Hu’s opening segment features Huang Bo as an engineer who must ensure that the automatic flag raising mechanism works before Chairman Mao takes the stage. Zhang Yibai’s film about a scientist working on China’s first atomic bomb is heavy hearted, and the protagonist’s bittersweet relationship with his lover is solemnly depicted. With the recent political unrest in Hong Kong, Xue Xiaolu’s contribution about the preparations for the return of city from British rule to Chinain 1997 is poignant, especially with the involvement of actors like Simon Yam and Kara Wai.
Chen directs a film himself, and gets the crew to film in the vast deserts of Mongolia, where the Shenzhou 11 landed. The story about a pair of brothers witnessing the event is quietly heartbreaking, and the appearance of Tian Zhuang Zhuang as a father figure to the two boys is a nice touch. The film ends with Wen Muye’s film about a female fighter pilot who takes a backseat to ensure that the 2015 military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the victory in the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War is run smoothly.
Besides some of the abovementioned actors, the film features a star studded cast. It is a project that you want to be involved in if you are planning for a long term career in Chinese showbiz. And everyone delivers a credible performance. Some of the faces you’d recognise include Jiang Wu, Hu Jun, Tong Dawei, Zhang Yi, Zhou Dongyu, Wu Jing and Liu Haoran.
It is nice to see a film from ordinary people's perspectives, and see how their dedication are part of the country’s historical moments. This is a film that will stir your emotions, and probably have you embracing the Chinese culture and history.
(A well produced film that features a star studded Chinese cast, and more importantly, stirs patriotic emotions)
Review by John Li