Two recent releases try to push the boundaries of “patriotic” filmmaking
With their sentimental taglines, similar-sounding titles, and posters that overly employ the color red, “patriotic” movies tend to make decent box offices in China due to generous state support, but are not known as major hits.
Two fall releases have tried to challenge this convention, with mixed success. Released shortly before the country’s 70th National Day holiday, My People, My Country surpassed the expectations stemming from its pedestrian title to gain a rating of 8 points out of 10 on the authoritative audience-review app Douban, proving that honest storytelling can, to an extent, overcome the usual flaws of the genre.
A longstanding subcategory in the Chinese film industry, patriotic films, also known as “major theme” movies, typically represent official ideology, mainstream culture, and positive ideals in their plot and setting. Generally, this results in sophomoric efforts with monotonous themes, bland characters, and maudlin narratives that rarely go beyond the value of sacrifice for the family or pride in the nation’s achievements.
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My Country, My Cinema is a story from our issue, “Tuning Up.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.