MEM­O­RIES OF VALOR

The emo­tions of Red Army sol­diers dur­ing a piv­otal bat­tle of the Long March form the ba­sis of a new film, Xu Fan re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

Dur­ing the Long March, a piv­otal bat­tle was fought by the Red Army when 22 sol­diers risked their lives to cross a 103-meter suspension bridge un­der fire from the Kuom­intang forces.

Reck­oned as a mil­i­tary mir­a­cle, the con­flict on Lud­ing Bridge over the rag­ing Dadu River in South­west China’s Sichuan prov­ince on May 29, 1935, has been recorded in the col­lec­tive mem­ory of Chi­nese peo­ple.

Gen­er­a­tions have read about this heroic episode in their school text­books.

Now, a 102-minute fea­ture is bring­ing this alive on the big screen.

TheWar­riors, with a cast led by Li Dongxue, Yu Xiaowei and Nie Yuan, opened in Chi­nese the­aters on Fri­day.

The film is part of a na­tion­wide homage to the Com­mu­nist sol­diers on the 80th an­niver­sary of the end of the LongMarch this year.

Last­ing from 1934 to 1936, the Long March was a mil­i­tary re­treat un­der­taken by the Red Army to avoid be­ing cap­tured by the Kuom­intang’s forces.

Less than 30 per­cent — or around 57,000 sol­diers — sur­vived the march to ar­rive in their des­ti­na­tion in North­west China’s Gansu prov­ince, re­port­edXin­huaNewsA­gency.

For di­rec­tor Ning Haiqiang, a vet­eran known for rev­o­lu­tion­ary films, the sig­nif­i­cance of the bat­tle at­tracted him to again step into the fa­mil­iar zone.

“The Red Army would not sur­vive if the sol­diers hadn’t suc­ceeded in cross­ing the river, as Chair­man Mao told Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist Edgar Snow in Yan’an,” Ning said at a Bei­jing event on Oct 12.

The two facts high­lighted in the movie are: The Red Army troops wore san­dals made of straw and cov­ered some 120 kilo­me­ters on foot in two days to reach the bridge; and the 22 sol­diers lead­ing the charge climbed on the bridge from which many planks had been re­moved by the en­emy and was held to­gether only by 13 chains that were wildly swinging.

“It’s a film that will­make the au­di­ence hold its breath,” says Ning.

“To win time from the en­emy, the Red Army troops chal­lenged the lim­its of hu­man be­ings.”

Speak­ing of the Red Army’s sac­ri­fice and hero­ism that form the ba­sis for today’s China, Ning says he hopes the film will make more young­sters know the coun­try’s history and pass on the spirit of the LongMarch.

Chi­nese movies spawned from LongMarch sto­ries have been fre­quently pro­duced over the past few decades, he says. So to avoid stereo­types, Ning sought to make the nar­ra­tion, per­for­mance and pro­duc­tion dif­fer­ent.

“Chi­nese are fa­mil­iar with those house­hold sto­ries about the Long March. So we must give them a new ex­pe­ri­ence while watch­ing the movie,” ex­plains the di­rec­tor, who has a ca­reer span­ning nearly three decades.

“Most rev­o­lu­tion­ary films fo­cus on a big pic­ture and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers. But TheWar­riors builds the story around char­ac­ters and their emo­tions.

“They are not he­roes, but hu­man with strug­gles.”

To be faith­ful to history, the crew toured the moun­tain­ous ar­eas the Red Army troops once tra­versed in south­west­ern China, where the al­ti­tude is up to 4,300 me­ters.

Mostly fi­nanced by Au­gust First Film Stu­dio and China Film Group, the new­film uses up to 1,000 spe­cial-ef­fect takes for the big ac­tion sce­nar­ios.

Jiang Ping, gen­eral man­ager of China Film Group, likens The War­riors to the for­eign war-themed clas­sics such as Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan, Pla­toon and The Wild Geese. per­fect be­ings

“We may never for­get the war­riors in those cin­e­matic mas­ter­pieces, but I dare to say the he­roes in TheWar­riors are not in­fe­rior to any of them,” says Jiang.

The A-list cast is at­trac­tion of the film.

Li, star­ring as a reg­i­ment com­man­der, is fa­mil­iar to fans for his suave, loyal-in-love prince in the pop­u­lar TV se­ries The Leg­end of Zhen Huan.

Other lead stars such as Nie and Yu are fa­mil­iar faces in Chi­nese cin­ema.

But Ning in­sists the story is the core of the movie.

“I hope the Chi­nese au­di­ence will ac­cept a movie fea­tur­ing our own history, which is nar­rated in a Chi­nese way,” says the di­rec­tor.

With English sub­ti­tles al­ready made, Ning re­veals The War­riors may have an over­seas dis­tri­bu­tion later. an­other

They are not per­fect he­roes, but hu­man be­ings with strug­gles.”

Con­tact the writer at xu­fan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The bat­tle on Lud­ing Bridge in 1935 played a sig­nif­i­cant role in the Red Army’s Long March, and now it is por­trayed in a new film TheWar­riors.

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