A new war film commissioned by the Chinese government is raking in a record amount of money at the Chinese box office and is en route to becoming the world’s top-grossing film of 2021.
What the movie is about: The “Battle at Lake Changjin” is a three-hour-long epic that depicts the brutal 17-day battle between China’s People’s Volunteer Army (PVA) and the U.S. X Corps in North Korea during the Korean War.
- “Changjin” had a production budget of over $200 million, making it one of China’s most expensive films ever made, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
- The film is co-directed by filmmakers Chen Kaige, Hark Tsui and Dante Lam and features state-of-the-art special effects. It also stars A-list actors Wu Jing (“Wolf Warrior 2”) and Jackson Yee (“Better Days”).
- The film is headed by Bona Film Group and the Chinese military-owned August First Film Studio.
- The movie premiered in China on Sept. 30 and has so far earned $633.2 million, according to Box Office Mojo. Industry insiders predict the film will eventually reach $830 million, outgrossing the movie “Hi, Mom,” the Lunar New Year hit that earned $821 million.
A war for young hearts and minds: Not unlike most Hollywood war films, “Changjin” glorifies the heroism and virtues displayed by soldiers during wartime. However, the movie revolves around all of the Chinese troops who went to war against American soldiers instead of highlighting a singular hero, according to PRI.
- Despite opposing claims from the U.S. side, China holds up the particular conflict as its most critical victory of the war and refers to it as the “War to Resist American Aggression and Aid Korea.”
- While the Chinese troops sustained over 40,000 reported casualties, it was still considered a geographic victory for the Chinese as it forced the X Corps to return to South Korea.
- Washington University Chinese history professor Zhao Ma pointed out that “Changjin” is just one of the dozen films produced about the Korean War in just the past year.
- Ma noted that the trend is pointing towards a “nationalist mission” espoused by the Chinese government as a “salute to this glorious Chinese party and the glorious Chinese state.”
- According to Bona Film Chairman Yu Dong, he wanted to make a film similar to the patriotic Korean war films he saw growing up for “the young people today,” CNN reported.
- The influx of such films coincides with the Chinese government’s orders to use cinema to spread propaganda and foster a nationalist sentiment among young people.
- According to the China Film Administration, movies must focus on themes of “loving the Party, the country and socialism” as well as “singing the praises of the Chinese Communist Party, the motherland, the people and its heroes.”