CHOOS­ING HIS BAT­TLES

China’s most-pop­u­lar mil­i­tary TV se­ries’ pro­ducer is fight­ing for big changes in how the genre is pre­sented on the small screen. Wang Kai­hao re­ports.

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE -

He’s ar­guably the man who brought China its an­swer to Band of Broth­ers.

When TV pro­ducer Wu Yi brought the 30-episode se­ries Sol­diers Sor­tie to the small screen in 2006, he had lit­tle inkling it’d be­come one of the Chi­nese main­land’s most-cel­e­brated mil­i­tary dra­mas. It’s still widely ac­claimed as such.

Sol­diers Sor­tie fol­lows Pri­vateXu San­duo— ashyvil­lage boy sent to the army by his fa­ther in or­der to make a man out of him. He grows through per­se­ver­ance from his entry into a Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army mech­a­nized-in­fantry unit un­til he be­comes a core mem­ber of an elite force.

“I’m not boast­ing,” Wu says, sigh­ing.

“I re­gret no other mil­i­tary drama has reached this level over the past decade.”

Sol­diers Sor­tie has 9.1 out of 10 points on China’s ma­jor film-and-TV crit­i­cism web­site, Douban.com, mak­ing it the high­est-rank­ing Chi­nese mil­i­tary TV se­ries ever. It has 8.1 points on Douban’s US-based equiv­a­lent, iMDb.com.

Wu adores mil­i­tary themes, al­though most of his on­go­ing projects are about ur­ban ro­mance or Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911) leg­ends.

“At­ti­tudes de­cide pro­duced,” he says.

“We must ven­er­ate au­di­ences.”

Wu is call­ing for a re­ju­ve­na­tion of the genre. He’s pres­i­dent of the Tiany­iMe­dia group be­hind many mil­i­tary dra­mas.

He’s both­ered by how the genre is of­ten pre­sented. For in­stance, the pro­lif­er­at­ing pro­duc­tions por­tray­ing theWar of Re­sis­tance Against Ja­panese Ag­gres­sion (1937-45) seem to ex­ag­ger­ate Chi­nese fight­ers’ brav­ery while de­pict­ing Ja­panese sol­diers as buf­foons.

“If an or­di­nary Chi­nese per­son could kill 20 or 30 in­vaders alone— as is shown on TV se­ries — why’d our war last so long?” he asks.

“It’s the wrong di­rec­tion. It’s dis­grace­ful­whenour fore­bear­ers’ sac­ri­fice is treated like a shoot-’em-up com­puter game.”

Wu grew up in a fam­ily work­ing for mil­i­tary enterprises and served two years in the PLA.

This back­ground has con­trib­uted to his in­sis­tence on what’s our the ac­cu­racy of de­tails when de­pict­ing mil­i­tary af­fairs.

He be­lieves China should ob­serve some uni­ver­sal prin­ci­ples for great wartime TV and movies fol­lowed by the rest of the world.

“We must cre­ate vivid char­ac­ters full of humanity and ex­plore their in­ner worlds if we­want to tell sto­ries over­seas au­di­ences can un­der­stand,” he says.

This out­look can be seen in an­other of Wu’s ac­claimed pro­duc­tions, the 43-episode My Chief and My Reg­i­ment (2009).

The se­ries tells the story of a scat­tered troop of Chi­nese ex­pe­di­tionary sol­diers, who are re­united and de­fend the front line against Ja­panese in­vaders in mod­ern-day Myan­mar in 1942.

“These sol­diers don’t want to fight but are ea­ger to win be­cause they can then go home,” Wu says.

“That spirit is over the world.”

Sol­diers Sor­tie is ac­tu­ally a main­stream pro­duc­tion show­ing the mod­ern development of China’s de­fense ca­pac­ity, he says.

“How­ever, when a grand theme is con­veyed from a reg­u­lar per­son’s per­spec­tive, it’s ap­proach­able to au­di­ences, who of­ten share a stereo­typed view that main­stream films andTVseries are pro­pa­ganda.”

Wu is ex­plor­ing new top­ics, shared all

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

MyChiefandMyReg­i­ment, one of Wu Yi’s best-known pro­duc­tions, tells the story of a troop of Chi­nese ex­pe­di­tionary sol­diers, who de­fend the front line against Ja­panese in­vaders in Myan­mar in 1942.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Soldier­sSor­tie, pro­duced by Wu Yi, is ac­claimed as one of the most-cel­e­brated mil­i­tary dra­mas on the Chi­nese main­land. Wu Yi, pro­ducer

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