Currently, the world’s highest-grossing film is not the latest 007 series, No Time to Die, nor the Bond movie No Time to Die, nor is it the legend of Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings.
It is a Chinese propaganda film about the Korean War in the 1950s, ‘Battle at the Jangjin Lake (Jinho Jang)’. The plot of this movie is about a small Chinese army defeating the Americans despite all kinds of hardships.
The movie Jang Jin-ho made over $633 million in box office sales within two weeks of its release. This far surpassed the $402 million the legend of Shang-Chi and Ten Lingz earned worldwide in just half the time.
Jang Jin-ho is expected to become the highest-grossing film in Chinese history.
The film’s success is good news for the Chinese film industry, which has been hit by the pandemic, with theaters in China temporarily closing and reopening due to the novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19).
For the Chinese government, this is even better news. Experts analyze that the film seems to have solidified the formula for appealing propaganda to the Chinese people.
However, from the perspective of Hollywood, which is trying to establish itself in China, the world’s largest film market, the popularity of Chinese films in Korea could mean a much bigger challenge.
‘A patriotic duty to watch a movie’
Produced at the request of the Chinese government, Jinho Jang is one of the few nationalist films that have been hugely successful in China in recent years.
The 2017 film ‘Special Forces War 2’, which tells the story of Chinese soldier Leung Feng’s rescue of hundreds of people from terrorist groups in an African war zone, earned a record 1.6 billion yuan (about 294.6 billion won) in just one week.
Jang Jin-ho depicts a brutal battle fought in the harsh cold, which the Chinese claim to be the ‘turning point of the Korean War’. The official name of the Korean War used by China is known as the ‘Anti-American Aid War’, that is, the “war against US imperialist aggression and aid to North Korea.”
Thousands of young Chinese soldiers against American forces were killed near the Changjin Reservoir while fighting for a decisive victory.
One audience left a review on the movie review site Douban, saying, “I was moved by the sacrifices of the soldiers. They won even in the extreme cold. I’m really proud.”
It is no coincidence that the film gained popularity amid heightened tensions between the US and China.
Dr Stanley Rosen, professor of political science at the University of Southern California (USC), said, “Jang Jin-ho’s popularity is undoubtedly linked to the continuing U.S.-China tensions. His popularity has grown very clearly in this way, sometimes indirectly. ”
Another reason the film was so successful was that the film studio and the Chinese government worked together to produce the film. The Chinese government strictly controls the number and types of films that can be distributed at a time.
Currently, there are very few competing films that can take away Jang Jin-ho’s audience. The major Hollywood blockbuster No Time to Die and ‘The Dune’ are already showing worldwide outside of China, but will only be released in China at the end of this month.
The timing of Jang Jin-ho’s opening was also exquisite. The movie was released during the Chinese National Day holiday, which started on the 1st, and was screened in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party this year. .
“It’s almost a patriotic duty for the Chinese to see this film,” Rosen explained.
Florian Schneider, director of the Leiden Asia Center in the Netherlands, explained: “Viewing these propaganda films is often compulsory for CCP officials.”
“Working units in China often organize group tours,” Schneider told the BBC.
There are overwhelmingly positive reviews about this movie online. However, some have pointed out that these reviews may not be completely true.
First of all, criticizing the film could lead to jail time.
Luo Changping, a former journalist who served as the deputy editor of the economic weekly magazine Chaijing, was detained last week on charges of making “abusive remarks” about the Chinese military in the movie Jang Jinho.
Police in Sanya City on Hainan Island in China’s Hainan province said Luo Changping was detained on charges of “damaging the reputation and honor of those who martyred for the country” and is investigating the case.
Iowa State University political science expert Dr Jonathan Hasid previously told the BBC that “Chinese young people with strong nationalist sentiments are being biased online.”
He analyzed, “The reason these voices are getting louder in some areas is that legitimate criticism of the state is not being accepted more and more.”
Still, fans of the movie Jang Jin-ho love the blockbuster elements that put it on par with other major mainstream movies.
Dr. Rosen said, “The production cost of this film is known to be 200 million dollars. The production value and special effects are very good. The three directors who directed the film are all great storytellers, and they are also famous in China.”
Director Chen Kai-ger of ‘The King of Kings’, Shiker of the ‘Pi-hong Hwang’ series, and professional action film director Lin Qiaoxian (Dante Lam) are all well-known film producers, and they all worked together to direct the movie Jang Jin-ho.
Schicker is known for his special effects and martial arts films, and Dante Lam is known for his action spectacles set in huge explosions. Chen Kaiger is a popular director who sharply depicts the life of the Chinese people.
One audience wrote on Weibo, “We all know that this film is patriotic, but I really cried while watching it. It felt very sincere.”
Hollywood’s Big Trouble
However, while overseas film industries such as Hollywood are solving various tasks to occupy the lucrative Chinese market, the popularity of Korean films in China may add to the homework they need to solve.
China officially screens up to 34 films a year through a foreign film quota system.
One of the solutions is for Hollywood to co-produce a movie with a Chinese company so that it doesn’t count against the quota.
According to a report last year, major Hollywood figures have been censoring movies as a way to appease the Chinese market, and as a way to appease China’s censorship, they are increasingly customizing their casting, content, lines, and plot to the Chinese market.
However, this does not guarantee box office success. Some films co-produced by China and overseas failed at the box office.
The 2016 fantasy action film ‘The Great Wall’, directed by famous Chinese director Zhang Yimou and starring Matt Damon, was criticized in the United States and China for “the story of white westerners being saved” in the United States and China.
Despite these challenges, experts told the BBC that foreign filmmakers won’t give up working with China anytime soon.
He added that China and Hollywood ultimately need each other.
Dr. Rosen said, “China wants to maintain its position as the world’s No. 1 film market after COVID-19, and to maintain its dominance in the North American market, Hollywood blockbuster films, especially those showing higher ticket prices in IMAX and 3D theaters, are still available,” said Dr. Rosen. needed,” he explained.
“As the cost of making Chinese films continues to rise, the connection to Hollywood may diminish,” he added. “But Hollywood portrays a universal story that China can’t or won’t tell.”