Success of 'red movies' with stars in appealing to youths
The 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China has set off a movie boom in China, with a series of commemorative films being released one after another.
Among them, 1921, which had grossed more than 300 million yuan ($46 million) by Tuesday, is expected to become one of the biggest blockbusters this summer. The movie tells the story of the Chinese youth who came together in Shanghai to found the CPC in July, 1921.
According to media reports, the film has attracted many young moviegoers, mostly in their 20s and 30s, across the country, with some waving the Party flag on their way to the cinema and taking photographs in front of the film's posters.
But movies like 1921 have also sparked heated discussions online. 1921's hashtag on Sina Weibo has reached billions of views and many people have shared positive reviews online. Although 1921 is a movie about a very important and special chapter in China's history, its star-studded cast drew the added attention of moviegoers, especially young people, even before its release. On social media platforms, many said they had high expectations from the film and vowed to watch it because of their favorite stars.
Hence, some movie critics have doubted whether a movie with a group of young stars can measure up to the task of sincerely chronicling the historical moment of the founding of the CPC.
The recruiting of popular young actors and actresses to play particular roles in the movie was the decision of the production team. One reason for that could be that the historical characters in the film were in their 20s or 30s in 1920 and 1921. Another reason, which is more important, could be that the movie aims to help young people to better understand the history of that period.
Huang Jianxin, the director of 1921, told CGTN: "We hope to get a little help from genre movies because nowadays many young people learn history through movies. They don't read books before they come to see your movie, so our movies should have genre expression."
It seems the movie has met with initial success, as many young viewers shared their positive reaction online after watching it. They have said that although they had gone to watch their favorite stars, they were deeply touched by the young pioneers' aspiration to build a new and energetic Party and a prosperous China.
One Weibo user wrote: "I did not know the character that is played by my favorite actor before watching the movie. I cried in the cinema when he sacrificed his life for the cause. The man died in his early 20s, which is really sad."
The user further wrote that she left a bouquet of flowers in front of his tomb in the martyrs' cemetery. Her story exemplifies the change in the attitude of many young moviegoers before and after watching 1921.
This is not the first time that movies starring young celebrities have become hugely popular among young people. Starting from the 2019 movie My People, My Country, which was released to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, commemorative films and TV programs have targeted young people as the main audience.
The movie industry in China has realized that traditional concepts and ideas about the youth are outdated. Those who were born and raised in the digital era are more willing to accept international perspectives in films and TV programs that depict traditional and historical stories.
Furthermore, despite looking for their favorite stars in patriotic movies or TV programs, unlike in the past, youths today care more about the personal details of historical figures than just their work and contributions.
This is one of the reasons that a hit TV series, The Age of Awakening, based on the events from 1915 to 1921－a critical period in the birth of the Party－has remained a hot topic on social media since it was telecast in February. According to data analyzer Guduo Media, more than 70 percent of its audience is below 35 years of age and they were highly impressed by the vivid portrayal of the founders of the CPC.
It is therefore clear that innovative and appealing ways to disseminate the Party's history among the people can inspire youths to voluntarily learn more about it. Knowing what the country and the Party have been through to reach the advanced stage that they are in today can help the youth develop healthy values and work for the betterment of the country and the Chinese people.
The author is a writer with China Daily.