Epic films a record of revival
The Communist Party of China (CPC) has been prominent in Chinese cinema, both onscreen and offscreen, almost since the very beginning. As early as the 1930s, CPC cells penetrated Kuomintang-controlled territories and encouraged the production of socially conscious films that carried hidden messages.
These “progressive” works played cat-and-mouse games with government censors and highlighted the poor-rich divide that was the root cause of so many ills of the day.
The founding of New China catapulted screen portrayals of CPC persona up front and center. With domination came homogenization. The early image of the idealist gave way to an increasingly statue-like god, who could do no wrong. This trend reached its apex during the “cultural revolution” (1966-1976), when rigorous rules dictated every aspect of the depiction of a CPC hero, including camera angles and lighting. Acting became a series of predetermined poses.
Reform and opening up has brought a gradual transformation to screen representations of the CPC. It has become more humanized, with the CPC hero having a more-or-less normal family life, for one thing. Occasionally, a villain surfaces, but he or she is always denounced as betraying CPC principles.
The following 10 feature films, picked by film critic Raymond Zhou, exemplify the evolving role of the CPC hero as depicted in Chinese movies.