New patriotic films gain ground in China

Author:SONG XINYA Source:Chinese Social Sciences Today 2022-02-16

The 2021 patriotic film “My Country, My Parents,” together with “My People, My Country” (2019) and “My People, My Homeland” (2020), have been collectively called the National Day patriotic film “trilogy.” Each contains multiple stories, tied together by a single theme, and presented through different styles of storytelling. This “trilogy” swept the Chinese film market, became a huge box-office success, and enjoyed a strong reputation. The popularity of these films reflects the spirit of the times, which is worthy of in-depth exploration.

National Day debut

The “trilogy” films were released during China’s National Day holiday season, an annual period when devotion to family and the nation peaks. The year 2019 marked the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It was also a year in which China started a new journey, and people’s patriotic feelings ran high. “My People, My Country” captures seven significant historical moments over the seven decades since 1949. It provides vivid narratives in chronological order of the founding ceremony of the PRC on Oct. 1, 1949, China’s first successful nuclear test in 1964, the Olympic gold medal won by the Chinese women volleyball team in 1984, the return of Hong Kong from British rule to China in 1997, the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the victory in the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression in 2015, and the manned spacecraft Shenzhou-11’s astronauts’ return to earth in 2016. The film’s focus is not the historical moments themselves, but the perspectives of ordinary people who were dedicated to, or affected by, those historical moments. The seven stories vividly portray China’s great journey from standing up to becoming prosperous and strong.

The year 2020 marked a milestone for China in its journey to achieve its poverty alleviation target and build a moderately prosperous society in all respects. “My People, My Homeland” consists of five stories that take place in the east, west, north, south, and center of China, presenting the country’s remarkable achievements in poverty alleviation in terms of rural medical insurance, targeted poverty alleviation, poverty-alleviation by supporting education, desertification control, and cadres promoting rural development.

The year 2021 marked the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the CPC and the historical convergence of the Two Centenary Goals. On the occasion of the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the PRC, the first batch of the CPC’s spiritual pedigrees were officially announced by the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, including the spirits of the War of the Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, “Two Bombs and One Satellite,” reform and opening-up, and Chinese scientists. Narrated in chronological order, the four stories of “My Country, My Parents” are based on China’s revolution, social construction, reform, and the new era, demonstrating the great spirits of different eras.

New features

Compared with China’s traditional patriotic films, which focus on great people in history, heroes, and grand themes of wars, the National Day patriotic film “trilogy” highlights ordinary peoples’ lives in significant historical eras, displaying the touching moments when ordinary people share weal and woe, and stay closely connected to the historical eras. “Me,” the narrator of the films, also represents the audience and all the people living in different periods. It makes the films more engrossing and enables audiences to identify with the films to a higher degree. All three of the films are related to “me.” Almost all the Chinese people have experienced the development of their country, the great changes in rural areas, and the inheritance passed down through the generations. Telling “our” story with “me” can evoke the collective memory of the nation and stir up people’s deep-seated sense of belonging.

The three films depict individuals with different backgrounds, occupations, and personalities. The heroes and heroines of these films include designers of an automatic flag-raising-and-lowering device, members of the PLA Hong Kong Garrison Honor Guard Battalion at the flag-raising ceremony when China resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997, officials working at primary-level organizations for poverty alleviation, a little boy living in an alley, a taxi driver, a farmer who is also an inventor, aerospace engineers, and salesmen of medicinal liqueur. These figures perfectly link the grand narrative of history with individual life narratives, focusing on the destiny and emotions of common people in grand historical events, presenting their dedication to the development and rejuvenation of the nation, and following unique experiences and memories of individuals closely. Under the grand theme of history and the nation, the National Day patriotic film “trilogy” salutes the individuals who contribute to the nation, and subtly evokes audiences’ patriotic feelings.

A mirror of real China

“My People, My Homeland” is the most outstanding of the National Day patriotic film “trilogy” in showing the zeitgeist of the time. It vividly reveals contemporary rural life in China and people’s inner world. The first story of this film, “A Good Person in Beijing,” highlights China’s remarkable achievements in health insurance in rural areas. China’s medical insurance system for urban and rural residents is gradually achieving universal coverage to better meet people’s needs for medical services and drugs. “UFO from the Sky” is inspired by rural development in the Qiannan Buyei and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, an autonomous prefecture of Guizhou Province. It shows the vitality of China’s rural vitalization undertakings. This comedy is derived from the modern development of Kedu Town in Pingtang County, Guizhou Province. As the astronomy craze brought by the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST), which is located near Kedu Town, swept the country, the people of Kedu Town greatly developed local tourism projects, which successfully liberated the local people from poverty. The idea of a UFO is derived from the use of drones for delivery purposes in this town. “The Last Lesson” was created in honor of rural teachers. It shows great changes in China’s rural education by comparing the past and present. The film was recorded at Xiajiang Village around Qiandao Lake, Zhejiang Province. In order to promote local tourism, Xiajiang villagers explored and developed traditional handicrafts and other intangible cultural heritage, which is now paying dividends. “The Way Home” takes place in the Mu Us Desert, Shaanxi Province, which was once barren and covered with yellow sand. After generations of effort at afforestation and controlling desertification, the Mu Us Desert is turning lush and green. Finally, “Ma Liang” sets its sights on the dedicated cadres who work for poverty alleviation and rural vitalization in rural areas in northeast China.

Set in four different periods spanning from difficult wartime to the new era of material abundance, “My Country, My Parents” involves the stories of four families, which reflect the changes of the times and the succession of national spirit. The hard work and sacrifice of parents created a bright future for their children and the nation, and their children continue to forge ahead for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. “Wind Riders” is adapted from the heroic deeds of the Jizhong Cavalry Regiment, a distinguished cavalry regiment which fought on the Jizhong Plain during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression. In the film, Ma Ren-xing, the commander of the Jizhong Cavalry Regiment, fought bravely with his son to defend the nation, demonstrating the great revolutionary spirit of devotion to the nation. “Poem” is set in the early days after the founding of the PRC, when China designed the Long March 1 rocket in the Gobi Desert and used it to launch China’s first satellite. The details in the film, such as the dust that swept over the area in black clouds, biting cold, leaking roofs in heavy rain, and countless explosions filled with smoke and dust, give full account of the harsh conditions at that time. The story follows an ordinary family and depicts the hard work and selfless dedication of the parents towards aerospace. “AD Man” tells the story behind the birth of the first TV commercial in the Chinese mainland during the early days of reform and opening up. It salutes the pioneers of the times, whose innovative spirit put the country on track for fast economic growth. “Go Youth” is about teenagers with scientific aspirations, who are indomitable in their scientific dreams.

Generations of Chinese people forge ahead and contribute to great historical moments one after another. Their efforts create the prosperity of China. People who work at primary-level organizations dedicate themselves to poverty alleviation, bringing a new look to their hometown. The previous generations who made sacrifices for defending and developing their native land will always be remembered. The National Day patriotic film “trilogy” spans a grand historical narrative through individual stories. “Me” is a symbol of the Chinese people who have come all the way through sufferings and hardships. In grand historical events such as fighting against COVID-19, securing a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and a complete victory in poverty alleviation in the new era, the Chinese people inherit the national spirit, undertake the important mission of the “nation” and “family,” and forge ahead for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.


Song Xinya is a lecturer from the School of Marxism at Shaanxi Normal University.





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