Withdrawn war movie on ‘wrong side of history’

By Wang Qi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/16 23:58:40

A woman takes pictures at a showroom in the Museum of the War of the Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression on Friday which commemorates the 70th anniversary of the recovery of sovereignty over Taiwan after 50 years of Japanese occupation. Photo: Li Hao/GT

 The Eight Hundred, a Chinese war epic, was withdrawn from opening the 22nd Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF) on Saturday due to "technical reasons," makers of the film announced on their Sina Weibo account.

Some left-wing commentators have criticized the film for having a "one-sided narrative" of the Kuomintang's (KMT) role in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-45), and some observers and net users claimed this was why the movie was withdrawn at the last minute. 

Although it failed to make its debut at the opening ceremony of SIFF, the film crew appeared on the red carpet on Saturday night. As the first Chinese-language film filmed entirely on an IMAX camera, moviegoers were eagerly awaiting the film. 

The film is based on a real event, the defense of the Sihang Warehouse in Shanghai in 1937. About 400 Chinese KMT soldiers, who persuaded Japanese attackers that there were actually 800 soldiers inside, managed to defend it for three months. However, their heroism ended in tragedy when all of them were killed. 

Their mission was to contain and distract Japanese troops to allow thousands of Chinese civilians to escape the warzone to get to safety in the foreign settlements of Shanghai. 

The KMT was the ruling party of China during World War II and cooperated with the Communist Party of China (CPC) to fight against Japanese aggression, but after the war ended, the KMT launched a civil war against the CPC which ended in defeat and the KMT's retreat to the island of Taiwan.

According to a left-wing Chinese website, hswh.org.cn, the motivation for the film's creation was discussed by 17 left-wing commentators during a "red culture" seminar which took place a week before SIFF's opening night. Although left-wing commentators Sima Nan and Guo Songmin praised the patriotism and sacrifices of the KMT soldiers, they said that defeat in the Battle of Shanghai was caused by the KMT's corruption and failed military leadership, and the film did not tell the whole picture of the history, which should not be encouraged. 

The film's official release date, July 5, was announced in April, according to Shanghai-based new portal website thepaper.com, so this suggests that the film has already received a permit to be shown in cinemas from the China Film Administration. 

The memorial hall on the battlefield of Sihang Warehouse was designated as one of China's patriotic education bases in 2015, and it is also a national-level education base for students of primary and middle schools. This means that the battle of Sihang Warehouse fought by the KMT soldiers is well-recognized by both Chinese people and the government.

As of press time, there is no confirmation as to whether the movie's July release will go ahead as planned.

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