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China: Mixed Reactions to Communist Party Movie Epic

Beginning of the Great Revival, the epic cinematic tribute to the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), was released in mainland China cinema on June 15, 2011. However, the suspended release of Hollywood movies in June as a result, has enraged many people.

Angry netizens have trashed the movie through online rating platforms such as Douban Movie, resulting in the suspension of the site's rating and comment system.

Varying interpretations

With the recent social unrest and massive protests across China, the history of the founding of CCP is more than ever being subjected to all kinds of political interpretation. Prominent blogger Yang Hengjun pointed out that the movie's story is about ending dictatorship [zh] on the Sina Weibo forum on June 10, before the movie was released:

6曰15日《建党伟业》全国上映,既然花了那么多钱,大家还是去看看吧。电影是讲述一群中国人为了结束国民党一党独裁而浴血奋战,最终取得了胜利。你可以到电影院里享受一下共党是如何结束了国民党一党专政的,激动的时候可以同电影里的共党一起高呼:结束一党专政,民主自由万岁,耶——

Beginning of the Great Revival will be released on June 15. Since we have spent so much money [on making it], we better watch the movie. The story is about a group of Chinese people who shed their blood to end the Kuomingtang's one party dictatorship. Eventually they get their victory. You can go to the cinema to enjoy the scene when CCP ended KMT's [Kuomingtang's] one party dictatorship. You can even shout out with the CCP inside the cinema: end the one party dictatorship, long live democracy and freedom!

Upon watching the below trailer of the movie, Twitter user @Fox_Tang changes his attitude towards the movie [zh]:

我错了,我真的错了,我昨天还在讽刺建党伟业来着,看了预告片后,我深深地觉得所有青年都该看看这片子,学学片子里的青年人是怎么和腐败强权斗争的,学学他们是怎么示威的,学学他们的热血,学习下他们是怎么建党推翻独裁政权的。。。

I am wrong, totally wrong. Yesterday I was mocking at the founding of the party, but after watching the trailer, I really feel that all young people should see this movie and learn from the movie how to struggle with corrupted power. Learn how to strike and overthrow the dictatorship…

Twitter user @ymtx [zh] makes a list on what the audiences will learn from the movie:

据说《建党伟业》很有教育意义。它告诉我们:1、建党是为了推翻国民党一党独裁。2、开始人少点没关系,星星之火,可以燎原。3、光自己干不行,要有外援。可以派出去,也可以请进来。4、光靠知识分子不行,要有敢于牺牲的热血青年。4、它教育我们,只有推翻了一党专政的国民党反动政府中国才有希望

Hearsay is that Beginning of the Great Revival is very educational. It tells us: 1. The founding of CCP is to overthrow the KMT's [Kuomingtang's] dictatorship; 2. At the beginning, it is okay to have only a few people, little sparks can trigger a huge fire in the grassland; 3. One cannot depend on oneself, we need overseas assistance. We can send people out or invite people to join in; 4. We cannot depend on intellectuals, we need hot blooded youths who are willing to make sacrifices; 5. It tells us that China only had hope after KMT's one party dictatorship reactionary government was overthrown.

A satire has been circulating among social media users;  @Ludwiyk retweets the joke:

《建党伟业》上映的时候是不是考虑打个字幕:“危险!切勿模仿! 以下表演由专业人士完成,普通观众模仿可能会导致监禁或失踪。”

Beginning of the Great Revival should consider putting up a warning statement: “Danger! Do not imitate! The show is performed by professionals, imitation will lead to imprisonment or disappearance.”

Unfulfilled promise of social and economic justice

David Bandurski from China Media Project has translated a more sophisticated reading of the movie by Yazhou Zhoukan's editor-in-chief, Yau Lop-Poon:

This is a major film spangled with stars. All those beautiful leading actors and actresses, all of those explosive and thrilling scenes, all of the clever and moving dialogue is enough to move audiences for the Founding of a Party. But what most moves many people still is the slogan shouted out [in one scene] by a young revolutionary: “Long live the workers!”

Perhaps many of those Sichuanese migrant workers who were in the midst of the mass incident that broke out in the [county-level[ city of Zengcheng in Guangzhou in recent days might have thought of such a slogan. There are an estimated 250 million migrant workers in China, who can no longer stand being pressed into the lower echelons of society, whose fate has become that of "second-class citizens." If they saw this massive film the Founding of a Party, it would certainly resonate strongly.

Here we see too a great contradiction between historical ideas and brutal realities [of the present day]. Ninety-some years ago, the people of China pursued the dream of social and economic justice, but today these are still in sight but beyond reach, they are still beautiful fictions on the silver screen.
This has also sparked controversy among Chinese intellectuals in recent years. Will Chinese development return to the [ways of] the Mao Zedong era, when “class struggle was like the ropes of the fish net and upholding the class struggle [resolved] all minor issues.” Or will it rely on mechanisms of free competition, holding up GDP before all else in the midst of international division of labor?

Angry netizens

The film may be educational in many aspects, but the manipulation of June box office schedules has enraged many people, who have collectively “trashed” the movie through the rating system of Douban Movie and other online movie sharing platforms. Eventually, Douban had to disable its rating and commenting function.

According to the observation of Sina Weibo user Hot Movie, on the morning of June 15, around 60% of audiences gave only 1 star to the movie in the 1-10 rating system on Duoban, which resulted in a sudden drop of the movie rate to 4.8.

The site later suspended the rating and comment system when the rating of the movie dropped to 2. At around 6pm, the movie rating icon had disappeared altogether. Techblogger William Long points out on Twitter that it is the first time in Douban's history that visitors have been unable to rate and comment upon a movie.

On another movie sharing site, VeryCD, the rating of Beginning of the Great Revival is 2.2, with more than 11,769 votes saying that the movie is “trash” among the 12,208 voters (screen capture at June 18, 2011 15:30):

Why people are so angry at the movie? Netizens from Hot Movie‘s Weibo thread have some explanations:

王SE7EN 其实拍没那么糟,还是满有可看性。大家也就是被它那排它性排片方式激怒了,不爽而已。发泄一下罢了,让人说话,天塌不下来。(今天 09:19)

王SE7EN: Actually it is not that bad, worth viewing it. People are angry at its exclusive gesture and want to criticize about that. The sky won't fall for letting them speak. (Today 09:19)

阳佳祈 给我钱都不看(今天 00:49)

阳佳祈: Even if someone pay me, I won't go to see the movie. (Today 00:49)

TawhuZz 低分和电影质量本身无关。抵制的是,这是一部歌功颂德、外国人演的洗脑片,不值得看。(6月16日 21:11)

TawhuZz: The rate has nothing to do with the quality. People just want to boycott a propaganda brainwashing movie performed by some foreigners. (June 16 21:11)

小殷颖 单位现在已经开始拉人观看了,战术开始了(6月16日 20:18)

小殷颖: My work unit is mobilizing people to see the movie, same old tactics. (June 16 20:18)

夏时君待 这哪是百姓可以随便评论的片子!咱没那资格(6月16日 20:13)

夏时君待: This is not a movie for ordinary citizens to comment upon! We don't have the status to do so. (June 16 20:13)

辘辘空间 现实照进梦想,哈哈…别怕,票房有共产党撑着(6月16日 18:34)

辘辘空间: The reality is breaking in to the dream, haha… don't be worried, the CCP will take care of the box office. (June 16 18:34)

  • http://juliekinnear.com Julie Kinnear

    Movie about a communist party, sponsored by the communist party… seems like a clear cut piece of propaganda to me. Furthermore, suspending release of other movies because of it, just demonstrates the true nature of the regime.

  • Daniel Roth

    You know its OK if you guys want to support the whole system of hedonism on earth. Its your right to be greedy, and I can even understand how someone whom falls on the right side of capitalism might like it. My problem is when you deface the truth with your arbitrary prejudices, its perpetuates a false history. Whether you agree or disagree with communism, people still have the right to the truth, they still have the right to know the world doesn’t have to be such an ugly place. That their are things that matter more then profit. The film is incredibly accurate, which surprises me since the current capitalist government in China would seem to have more of an interest in hiding the truth about Mao, and the early accomplishments of the true communist(workers) party. Anyway Im sure you will troll me, and write me off as just another brainwashed commie, I would expect nothing less from close minded imbeciles.

    • http://abrighterhellas.blogspot.com Alois Saint-Martin

      Daniel Roth, For the People~

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  • http://www.mentaldisorder.com count

    best scene shows kidnapping sequestration of chiang kai-shek’s son by stalin. vive le terror

  • http://abrighterhellas.blogspot.com Alois Saint-Martin

    The Peoples Film Industry is a Credit to the Human Artistic Endeavor. Thousands of Years before the Quest for Intergalactic Democratic Freedom, made Madison Avenue the Oracle of Human Artistic Expression; Chinese People were working the In`s and Out`s of what would come to be known as ” The Great Leap Forward “. The Peoples Art is Pure; It is Original, It is Sincere. Watching Communist China grow and stumble though her Sociopolitical Adolescence, is like watching young Genius; What will She do next, What News will she bring. I follow CCTV as closely as I do CNN. Nothing beats a Pot of Tea, a Bag of Peanuts, and an Old Revolutionary Era Film ~

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