Film hon­ors PLA

Found­ing of an Army cast young pop stars to pay homage to past

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at xu­fan@chi­

The up­com­ing 90 th an­niver­sary of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army is see­ing many mil­i­tary-themed movies and TV se­ries hit­ting the screens. The Found­ing of an Army

di­rected by An­drew Lau, a Hong Kong film­maker known for his stylish ac­tion se­quences, is listed as one of the most an­tic­i­pated films on some movie por­tals and the Chi­nese so­cial me­dia.

A fol­low-up to The Found­ing of a Repub­lic (2009) and Be­gin­ning of the Great Re­vival

(2011) — about the birth of New China and the Com­mu­nist Party of China — the new movie is about the early his­tory of the Party’s armed forces in the late 1920s.

It starts with Chi­ang Kaishek’s an­ni­hi­la­tion of Com­mu­nist mem­bers in Shang­hai on April 12, 1927, and chron­i­cles the for­ma­tion of the Party-led armies through mile­stones such as the 1927 Nan­chang Up­ris­ing and 1928 join­ing forces at the Jing­gang Moun­tain.

As a trib­ute to the PLA’s 90th an­niver­sary, which falls on Aug 1, the movie is set to open in Chi­nese main­land the­aters on Thurs­day.

While the up­com­ing PLA an­niver­sary has brought new fo­cus on the movie, the film was in the news ear­lier for other rea­sons.

“When re­ports ap­peared that I would di­rect the movie (in 2016), many peo­ple asked, ‘Why a Hong Kong di­rec­tor?’” says Lau.

Lau is best known for the In­fer­nal Af­fairs fran­chise, which drew Hol­ly­wood’s Martin Scors­ese to make The

De­parted, an Os­car win­ner. The ques­tion of who will di­rect the new film as­sumed sig­nif­i­cance as the pre­vi­ous two movies were di­rected by Huang Jianxin and Han San­ping, both born in the 1950s on the Chi­nese main­land.

Also, such patriotic movies had been mostly di­rected by film­mak­ers from State-owned stu­dios with vet­eran ac­tors in key roles.

But the “rules” were bro­ken for The Found­ing of an Army.

The cast is an­other rea­son that caused con­tro­versy.

In the film, most of the ac­tors play­ing Chi­nese mili- tary lead­ers from the 1920s are young pop idols.

Mean­while, Huang, who is the ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, says that they had two plans for cast­ing choices.

“One plan was to use ac­tors aged be­tween 35 and 40, while the sec­ond plan was Lau’s, who wanted a younger cast to re­live his­tory.”

Zhou En­lai was 29 and Ye Ting was 30 when they launched the Nan­chang Up­ris­ing in 1927.

Mean­while, the film avoids stereo­typ­ing in its de­pic­tion of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers.

Liu Ye, who plays Chair­man Mao Ze­dong, dis­plays some emo­tion in a scene fea­tur­ing Mao’s farewell to his wife Yang Kai­hui and their chil­dren be­fore he leaves to set up a revo­lu­tion­ary base in the Jing­gang Moun­tain.

Zhang Hongsen, the deputy head of the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Press, Pub­li­ca­tion, Ra­dio, Film and Tele­vi­sion, re­cently posted two ar­ti­cles prais­ing the movie on his WeChat ac­count, China’s most pop­u­lar so­cial me­dia app.

In the ar­ti­cles, Zhang says that the coun­try’s top movie au­thor­ity told the di­rec­tor to pro­duce an ar­tis­ti­cally crafted story.

He also sup­ports the young idols in the film, say­ing they worked hard for low pay.

Zhang also says China’s movie in­dus­try needs more young ac­tors. In­dus­try watch­ers see The

Found­ing of an Army as an ex­am­ple of how such movies are be­ing tai­lored for a younger view­er­ship.

The film, jointly pro­duced by China Film Co and Bona Film Group, is sim­i­lar to Tsui Hark’s The Tak­ing of Tiger Moun­tain (2014), a revo­lu­tion­ary tale about a Com­mu­nist re­con­nais­sance sol­dier hero and Dante Lam’s Opera

tion Mekong (2016), a tale about a hunt for a Myan­mar drug ring, both com­mer­cial suc­cesses.

Jiang Yong, a Bei­jng-based in­dus­try an­a­lyst, says star power and Hong Kong film­mak­ing tal­ent are an ef­fec­tive for­mula to make such movies work at the box of­fice.

When re­ports ap­peared that I would di­rect the movie, many peo­ple asked, ‘Why a Hong Kong di­rec­tor?’”

An­drew Lau, Hong Kong



Clock­wise from top left: Li Yifeng stars as mil­i­tary strate­gist He Chang­gong, Zhu Yawen as Premier Zhou En­lai and Liu Ye as Chair­man Mao Ze­dong. Most of the ac­tors play­ing Chi­nese mil­i­tary lead­ers from the 1920s in the new film are young pop idols.

Hong Kong film­maker An­drew Lau di­rects a war scene cre­ated for the up­com­ing film TheFoundin­gof anArmy.

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