Animated Korean War film depicts heroic stories aimed at teenagers

By Ji Yuqiao Source: Global Times Published: 2020/10/21 19:23:41

Promotional material for Salute to the Heroes Photo: Courtesy of Wang He

Promotional material for Salute to the Heroes Photo: Courtesy of Wang He

Chinese film Salute to the Heroes, which will be released on Friday, seeks to introduce the stories of five heroic Chinese soldiers during the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea (1950-53), also known as the Korean War, to teens through a medium that they favor - animation. 

As the year 2020 marks the 70th anniversary of the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea, many works of art in China have been exploring the way, including films such as the Korean War epic Sacrifice. While Sacrifice is a live action film aimed at older audiences, the production team for Salute to the Heroes settled on making an animated film to target a younger demographic.

Deeper understanding

According to the producers, the film's goal is to help today's teens understand that the peace they enjoy should not be taken for granted as it was achieved through the heroic sacrifice of people who gave everything to protect the country.

"We should allow teenagers to know about these heroes through our works, otherwise many people will not know them and only see [fictional foreign characters like] Captain America as idols," Li Jianping, director of the film, told the Global Times.

The studio picked five heroes from among the thousands of brave Chinese soldiers who fought in the war - People's Volunteer Army soldiers Yang Gensi, Qiu Shaoyun and Huang Jiguang, and People's Liberation Army Air Force airmen Wang Hai and Zhang Taofang. The former three sacrificed their very lives during the war.

"These heroes were around 21 to 26 years old with the oldest 28 when they sacrificed themselves on the battlefield. They were in the prime of their lives, but laid down their lives for our country and for us to live happily," Li said.

Qiu and Huang are two familiar martyrs for many Chinese. Earlier in 2020, netizens took to social media to commemorate the anniversaries of their deaths. 

During the struggle for Hill 391 in October 1952, Qiu and his squad mates crawled closer to the enemy position, using hay and twigs as natural camouflage. The enemy troops used incendiary bombs, dropped by airplanes, to try to smoke out the Chinese units. Qiu got trapped in the ensuing brush fire and in order not to give away the location of the 500 other Chinese soldiers taking part in the assault, he did not run from his position and burned to death. He was just 26 years old when he died.

Huang died around the same time as Qiu. At the Battle of Triangle Hill, Huang's unit was tasked with destroying an enemy blockhouse. According to official accounts, Huang hurled himself against a machine gun slit on the blockhouse after running out of ammunition, sacrificing his life to block enemy fire.

When speaking of how they chose to arrange these five stories in the movie, Li said that the five stories are depicted as a process of inheritance, with each person inspiring each other and learning from one another. 

"This is the process of influencing each other, creating the spirit of the Chinese People's Volunteer Army as a whole instead of the spirit belonging to just one person," Li said.

Real history

The production team said they wanted to keep their animation style more realistic, while also adding some interesting life details about these soldiers to show audiences that although these young men were war heroes on the battlefield, they were also ordinary people in their own personal lives. 

"The contrast between their everyday lives and their lives during the war is full of a romantic feeling," Li noted.

To do their best at depicting the real history of the war on screen, many military experts were invited to act as advisers on subjects such as the military outfits of the Chinese and US militaries at that time.

Shi Wenxue, a film critic and teacher at the Beijing Film Academy, affirmed that animated films have an advantage when it comes to reaching teenagers and can help educate them in conjunction with textbooks.

"It will not damage the movie's artistic value, but also have educational value," he said.
Newspaper headline: ‘Salute to the Heroes’

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