Starring: Tang Guoqiang, Zhang Guoli, Xu Qing
Director: Han Sanping, Huang Jianxin
Running Time: 138 mins
The Founding Of A Republic is a Chinese film about the history of the Chinese Civil War from 1945-49, where Communist leader Mao Zedong overcame the odds to bring down the regime of Chiang Kaishek’s corrupt Nationalist government and establish the foundations for modern China.
Basically, this is Chinese state-funded propaganda, however you can tell that it’s trying pretty hard not to be. The world has come a long way from blatant propaganda in the form of Battleship Potemkin to a relatively well-acted dramatisation of history, and for that it’s a little more interesting and enjoyable to watch, however the fact that this is so fact-heavy (and also pretty biased) means that it’s still pretty painful to watch whether you’re interested in the history or not.
Let’s start with the fact that the performances in this film are pretty good. They seem to be the most convincing and realistic thing about the whole story, portraying the lives and stories of people on both sides, the Communists and the Nationalists, and although there’s a clear bias as to how they’re presented, the acting by the ensemble cast is actually quite good (whilst the likes of Jackie Chan and Jet Li feature too in some pretty pointless cameos).
Also, I was surprised by the fact that this is also a pretty good-looking film. It’s a very modern and vibrant portrayal of what is quite a dark history, and although that is yet another example of the bias of this film (portraying Mao’s great victory in a hugely romanticised way), it wasn’t every visually painful to watch as some war films can be.
On the other hand, the facts in this film are very frustrating. Now, I’ve always been a big campaigner of not caring about the facts, but in a historical biopic, you’ve got to give some degree of accuracy, and although it details the course of the war very well, there’s a lot of stuff that is hugely biased.
So, if you’re interested in the history of China, that will frustrate you, however if you’re not, this will be even worse, because it’s so fact-heavy and dramatically dry, it will easily bore you within the first few minutes – there’s no emotion to get you involved, it’s just cold history that looks a lot warmer that it seems.
Overall, I’ll give this a 5.9, because it’s a well-acted and decent-looking film that falls down due to its factual problems, inaccessibility for most people, and propaganda feel.