Propaganda Film Inspires China’s Youth to ‘Overthrow Dictatorship’
Film ridiculed in China opens in U.S.
A propaganda film meant to be a
record-setting blockbuster is beginning to look instead like a flop that is
performing like an anti-propaganda film. Rather than encourage devotion to the
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) the movie
celebrates, it is inspiring some audience members to reject the Party.
The CCP pulled out all the stops for
Beginning of the Great Revival, an
epic tribute to the Party’s 90th anniversary, which falls on July 1. One hundred
and eight Chinese stars are cast in a picture that was filmed on location in
seven cities in China, France, and
It opened one week ago in almost every theater in China and on
Friday it opens in 10 cities in the United States and Canada.
To be sure
that its Chinese readers are aware of the “global phenomenon,” the CCP’s
official mouthpiece Xinhua News
Agency did a photo report showing the movie’s banners at a San Francisco
Gao Jun, the spokesperson for the New Film Association, has
said that Revival will “for sure” gross 800 million yuan (US$123 million)
at the box office in its first month and that it will outperform Kung Fu
Panda 2 and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
its first week, daily receipts for Revival averaged just 0.6 percent
higher than those of Kung Fu Panda 2.
Revival only barely bested the performance of Kung Fu Panda
2, even though it is almost the only new movie that can be seen in Chinese
movie theaters these days.
On Thursday, Revival had 21 showings in
Beijing’s popular Wanda Cinemas and 23 showings in a theater in Taiyuan City,
Even a week after its release, the movie is shown about
700 times a day in Shanghai’s 67 theaters, which comprises 60 percent of all
movie showings, according to International Finance News, a daily paper published by
state-run People’s Daily.
Moreover, arranging to see the movie has
basically become a “political mission” for employers. In order to satisfy Party
authorities, companies book entire theaters for their employees and employees’
family members to watch for free.
An individual buying a ticket for
Revival has become a rarity.
“Yesterday I paid for the ticket to
Beginning of the Great Revival out of my own pocket. I must be a relic in
this world to want to volunteer myself for brainwashing,” Vest of a Nostalgic
Fish, a Chinese user of Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter, posted.
Free movie tickets with complimentary drinks and popcorn, which have
been circulating not only in companies but also in community Party branches for
retired Party members, are so numerous that they could hardly be valued.
A netizien by the name of Muyee Bean, who couldn’t make it to a company
night out to the movie, could not manage even to find anyone to give the ticket
“And one of my colleagues tried to get her mother-in-law to go
instead, but her mother-in-law said, ‘Who still wants to receive [Communist]
education nowadays?” Muyee Bean said on Weibo.
There is a reason that Revival tickets can’t even be given
In ratings that included viewers from outside China, 915 voters
ranked the film at 1.8 out of 10 on The Internet Movie
Database—but that rating is out of the CCP’s control. A Chinese-language
rating system for movies, Douban.com, still had a bearable number—until themovie
was released on June 15.
A screenshot of douban.com from a Chinese microblog user taken
on the morning of June 15 shows overwhelmingly negative reviews with nearly 60
percent of voters giving it one star, leading the overall rating to slide to 4.8
out of 10.
But before many could see Revival’s ratings, the
website had the rating system disabled altogether, making Beginning of the
Great Revival the only unrated movie, while Kung Fu Panda 2 enjoys
an 8.4 and Pirates of the Caribbean a 7.4.
the CCP’s History
Knowing the CCP’s History
Jiang Defu, manager of the China Film Group, told the Chinese tabloid Global Times that the group wants “the young audience, such as
post-1980s and 1990s, to see the film, to know our history and what the great
revolution was like.”
The film begins with the pre-history of the CCP,
capturing the 1911 Revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty (1645–1911) and
the May Fourth Movement eight years later. It then portrays the founding of the
Chinese Communist Party in 1921, followed by the CCP’s overthrow of the
Kuomingtang’s “one-party dictatorship.”
According to some viewers, the
movie’s treatment of this history is having unintended
Prominent blogger Yang Hengjun from Guangzhou
pointed out on June 10 that the movie would probably be one of the few
opportunities for someone to yell pro-democracy messages without getting in
trouble with the CCP.
“Since so much money has been spent [on making the
movie], we might as well just go see it,” Yang said. “The movie is about a group
of Chinese people who shed their blood to end the Kuomingtang’s one-party
dictatorship and eventually win. … When you are excited, you can even shout with
[them]: ‘End the one-party dictatorship. Long live democracy and
He Bing, vice dean and professor at the prestigious China
University of Political Science and Law, passed to the graduating students a
message that they would not usually hear under the communist education system.
“This is a very absurd era: You are encouraged to sing revolutionary
songs, but you are not encouraged to revolt; you are encouraged to watch
Beginning of the Great Revival, but you are not encouraged to found a
party yourself,” he said in a speech at a recent graduation ceremony in
“You may not all be Bao Gong,” he said, referring to the upright
Chinese official from the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127). “But you cannot harm
those who are virtuous and honest—this is a very basic bottom line.”
Twitter user @Fox_Tang, originally an opponent of the film, said that he
was “all wrong, totally wrong.”
“Yesterday I was just ridiculing
Beginning of the Great Revival, but after seeing the trailer, I deeply feel all young people should see this
film to learn how the young people onscreen fight against corruption and
despotism, learn how they hold demonstrations, learn their passion, and learn
how they overthrow dictatorship.”
Chinese dissident Zhou Yutian has been
in the CCP’s prisons several times, and now lives in the United States.
this is quite ridiculous, the CCP’s bringing of this movie to North America is
similar to CCP’s building of Confucius schools overseas—it is to show themselves
off," Zhou said in a phone interview.
“Although the CCP is trying very
hard to make itself look good, its efforts will not shape the CCP’s future. How
long will the CCP survive? Nowadays conflicts and dissatisfaction inChina have
risen to their peak. It won’t be long until the Jasmine Revolution starts in
China," Zhou said.