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建國大業 (2009)
The Founding of a Republic

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 01/17/2011
Summary: Epic retelling of Chinese history...

Founding of a Republic, mainland China’s epic story of the forming of Mao’s communist government, is a very good piece of film-making, but most likely glosses over some of the finer details in order to make a more compelling and hero-laden story. The movie opens at the end of World War II, with Mao in the north and Chiang Kai-Shek in the south battling for control of the country. The two agree to peace talks but they quickly fall apart and the civil war rages on. Key events and battles are relived, major personalities in the struggle are introduced, and after nearly two and a half hours, the movie ends with Mao’s announcement of the formation of the PRC on October 1, 1949.
Founding of a Republic is probably most well known to those outside of China as being the film that had a cast that included nearly every main star in Chinese cinema involved, from Jackie Chan and Donnie Yen to Andy Lau and Zhang Ziyi. A majority of the actors involved though are active in mainland films only, and are generally unknown outside that sphere. The more well-known stars have little more than cameos. Well known mainland directors such as Chen Kaige, Jiang Wen and Feng Xiaogang have bit parts as well.
Although not really a fair criticism, this is a very hard film to follow if you’re not familiar with the names and events that take place during those 4 years. While I might have a better grasp on people and places surrounding the American revolution, I was completely lost during most of the film. I had to keep rewinding to check who was who and what they were referring to. it’s very well filmed and made, but confusing to say the least. Perhaps it’s time to brush up on my foreign history.
That being said, the movie seems takes a slanted view of this period of time in China. I guess as to be expected, the characterizations are very positive towards the men in the CCP/PRC and negative towards the KMT. Mao is portrayed as a sort of sweet uncle, kind to everyone around him, playing with kids, paying attention to everyone and listening to all ideas, even those from the lowest man on the totem pole. He is seen as a political and military genius, but never claims to have all the answers. Chiang Kai-Shek, on the other hand, is seen as underhanded and cruel, using spies, assassins and dirty techniques to gain control of the country. His character gets a bit of a reprieve at the end of the film and shows a small amount of humanity, but the overall portrayal is clearly negative.
Although partly produced by the government, one of the film’s director’s dismissed the idea that is was politically influenced by saying it was “unfair to describe The Founding of a Republic as propaganda, since modern Chinese audience were too sophisticated to swallow a simplistic rendering of history.” Interesting theory, but it’s probably worth watching and decide for yourself.


Reviewer Score: 7