Film honors PLA
Founding of an Army cast young pop stars to pay homage to past
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.