BEIJING: Dressed in a blood-stained Chinese army uniform and a cap with a red star in the center, Wang Huaifu and his comrades gesture with guns in front of a row of soldiers triumphantly waving torn scarlet flags.
Wang is the lead actor in the patriotic “Battle of Shanghai” acrobatics show, a visual recreation of 1949 battles between the Communists and the Nationalists for control of Shanghai.
“Today’s China and Shanghai did not come to be as it is easily. It was fought for,” said 35-year-old Wang, who stars as a commander.
From movie screens to theater stages, China’s entertainment industry has turned red ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on Tuesday.
China’s film sector wields huge power and is expected to become the largest cinema market in the world by 2020 with strong box office growth and rising ticket prices, according to consultancy PwC.
Ever since it seized power in 1949, the ruling party has used media and entertainment as propaganda tools to spread patriotism which is rooted in the core of communism ideologies.
But experts say patriotic entertainment has had to adapt to appeal to China’s urbanized and cosmopolitan young adults who have become huge fans of Hollywood blockbusters.
“We are not trying to proceed with the spoon-feeding, rigid type of education,” said Dong Zhengzhen, scriptwriter of “Battle of Shanghai.”
“We should let the young people feel and consciously absorb through the charm of art itself.”
The historical drama “My People, My Country’’—based on seven memorial moments since 1949—draws on “narrative and production techniques more commonly associated with Hollywood”, said Nicole Talmacs, China cinema scholar at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University.
The film “downplays the stiff didactic approaches to ‘history telling’ that previous anniversary films have resorted to,” Talmacs said.
The historical drama will roll out in almost 40 countries including the US, Canada and Australia the day after its debut in China — partly due to Chinese media moguls’ aggressive acquisition of cinema chains worldwide.
“Chinese patriotism is no longer a localized affair,” said Talmacs.
While China’s entertainment industry tries to appeal to wider audiences, censors have recently whittled out and replaced shows with those that push the Communist cause.