What do stars having a meeting look like? On Founding of a Republic and Ye Daying's Tian'anmen

The Founding of a Republic: in cinemas from September 17. Image source: Sina

Movie directors and stars came together to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic. Two films, Tian'anmen (天安门) and The Founding of a Republic (建国大业) have been presented almost like "gifts" to the State for the anniversary.

The former is directed by Ye Daying (叶大鹰), whose involvement with "hooligan" ("痞子") writer Wang Shuo (王朔) has seen script collaborations and directorial debuts. In 1988 Ye worked on the script for Wang Shuo's The Troubleshooters (顽主) and his first film Out of Breath (大喘气) was adapted from one of Wang Shuo's novels.

The competing film for Tian'anmen is The Founding of a Republic directed by Han Sanping (韩三平) and Huang Jianxin (黄建新). Han Sanping is the CEO of the all powerful China Film Group (which imports foreign films and invests in all the big Chinese flicks), who also invested in Tian'anmen. Y Weekend (青年周末) interviewed Ye Daying about this. The translation is below.

Ye also keeps a blog on Sina, and on September 13 he wrote half-seriously about his recreation of Chairman Mao (using the real image, but remaking it digitally) being lonely
in the cinema, and failing to compete with The Founding of a Republic.

The Founding of a Republic is about the Political Consultative Meeting after the civil war and before 1949. It opens tomorrow to the public, and is famous for having 177 stars including Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, directors Chen Kaige and Feng Xiaogang - as well as the Chairman Mao, Zhou Enlai et al lookalikes (Tang Guoqiang 唐国强, Liu Jin 刘劲 respectively). You can see the trailer on Youtube.

Ye Daying: Shouldering the burden for mainstream films

by Yan Xueling (颜雪岭) / Y Weekend

Tian'anmen and The Founding of a Republic are both films presented by China Film Group to celebrate the anniversary. Ye Daying will no doubt do some comparing: The Founding of a Republic has more stars celebrating the birthday; but Tian'anmen will move more people.

This is a “red” director. Before meeting Ye Daying, this journalist knew this about him. It’s not a surprise that he is the grandson of Ye Ting (叶挺 - New Fourth Army General and one of the first members of the PLA); and was the director of Red Cherry (红樱桃), A Time to Remember (红色恋人), which together with Tian’anmen will form a “red series.”

Talking on the phone and texting before the interview, my “red” impression of him was enhanced. “Why don’t you watch the test run of the film first before we speak.” After the test run, he e-mailed this journalist, “Why don’t you read this material first?” Not many interview subjects will “supervise” the preparation work of the journalist.

On August 26, I met Ye Daying in the Hua Bin Building - he was the in the middle of being busy and very different to what this journalist expected. In our conversation, he wasn’t “red and professional” (又红又专) but “full of hooliganism.” (痞子十足) He’s not afraid to offend anyone. Zhang Jingchu (张静初) quit from the cast because of her period in another show; he says that she wasn’t a star in the first place, and that he never saw her as a star. He has different types of friends: artists, businessmen, and hooligans. When we mention something that makes him unhappy, he starts to throw around insults…

Y Weekend: Compared to The Founding of a Republic, is Tian’anmen is lacking in conversation?
Ye Daying: I think The Founding of a Republic is more for the entertainment circle and for film people to give their congratulation, and to organize a party; but Tian’anmen is a serious film, from its creation to production, everything has been very serious. From the idea of it to making it come alive, everything was very clear. Really these are two types.
Y Weekend: But it can’t avoid being compared.
Ye Daying: Obviously it’s a celebratory thing for stars to congratulate, but I believe that watching Tian’anmen people will feel more emotion.   

I also want to see The Founding of a Republic because of the challenge it is for its creators. It’s a Political Consultative Conference meeting, and I don’t know how good it will be to watch. Stars having a meeting... how will they have it? Will they do some handstands? Or a couple of flips? I'm really curious.

From the commercial point of view, we only have one star, which is Chairman Mao. Add all the characters in The Founding of a Republic together, can they be bigger than Chairman Mao?

(Back to the reporter)
The producer of Tian’anmen and The Founding of a Republic is the same person: Han Sanping. Even so, Han Sanping says what he thinks, and when he doesn't agree with something, he’ll come out and say it. Han was one year above Ye Daying at the Beijing Film Academy, when Ye asked Han to invest in the film, Han, who also has a “red complex,” quickly accepted. Later on the opportunity came for Han to direct the star-studded The Founding of a Republic. Ye Daying said he had to agree to that. “This is a double-win for him. It doesn’t matter how the audiences will compare, no matter whether Tian’anmen is better or worse than The Founding of a Republic, the person who wins is the producer, Han Sanping.”

Y Weekend: Your red films all contain some alternative elements, for example getting Leslie Cheung (张国荣) to play a Communist?
Ye Daying: They all say that my films are red, but in reality from Red Cherry to Tian’anmen, they’re all very commercial. For example, in Red Cherry it’s a story of childhood and war, and there are segments with getting tattoos, and segments with nudity, segments with Fascist devils, so all of it is commercial. A Time to Remember is even more commercial: I directly approached Leslie Cheung. And in Tian’anmen there is a very clever section, which is that there's a huge Chairman Mao. Our commercial label isn’t bad, it’s just that no-one thought of it.
Y Weekend: You don’t want to give your films a “red” label?
Ye Daying: A Time to Remember was understood a little wrongly. In the mainland, because the main character was a Communist, the film was given a hat of being a red film. Abroad, when we were receiving an award in Cairo, the President of the Jury was a really famous actor from the US, and he thought that this was a love story, he wasn’t stupid like us, putting labels on you because it’s a Communist. Giving you the wrong impression.

Y Weekend: Now that you have been labeled a red director, people have forgotten about your earlier period when you collaborated with Wang Shuo (王朔).
Ye Daying: I think most people talk based on their ideas, but I think this isn't really contradictory in terms of creative work. Film is only a way for me to express my emotions - as to what story it tells, that doesn't matter.

I still like Wang Shuo's work. I still like Wang Shuo's honesty, sharpness and magnanimity. There is something very noble and pure about his work, but his works have been twisted by many people. A little while ago Liu Fendou (刘奋斗) directed Ocean Flame (一半海水, 一半火焰) and made it so dirty. Wang Shuo's story didn't tell us to do that.

Y Weekend: Then why didn't you carry on directing his works, rather turning to revolutionary material?
Ye Daying: Because later on the opportunity was right in front of me. There is always a lot of money invested in films with a red subject matter. In terms of art, Wang Shuo is a fighter, continuing in his own direction, not caring what others say. I can't do it, I might go and make a compromise, and make a film based on a small bit of passion.

Chairman Mao is being isolated

by Ye Daying

Tian'anmen is now being shown in many theaters, but mostly at awkward times. Some theaters are only showing once every two days, or not at all.

But I know that those who have watched Tian'anmen like it very much, and are deeply moved by it, whether it's an old comrade or a post-90s university student. Recently we went to the Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture to show Tian'anmen to the students participating in the 60th anniversary celebration parade. The students really liked our film, and at the end everyone watched the writing on screen for a long time. Enthusiastic applause took us onto the stage, and the kids told us that after watching Tian'anmen they felt that they loved the country even more! They said, next time they walk past Tian'anmen they will definitely remember our film!

From what I know the degree of publicity that the China Film Group has put into Tian'anmen is far inferior to their other medium level commercial films, much less than City of Life and Death (南京! 南京!), not to mention The Founding of a Republic - their publicity plan is more than twenty times ours. The copies for The Founding of a Republic has been distributed over 1,400 times, but for Tian'anmen there are only 200-something.

I originally thought that getting Chairman Mao to appear in video using digital technology would become this year's publicity hot spot, but now it seems that most cinema managers are more attracted to the star effects of the other films.

We went through so much trouble producing Chair Mao, and it really makes the heart go cold when no-one is seeing it in the theaters. I lament about the changing world! But what can I do? Many people don't even know about our film. Many friends go to the theater after seeing a report about it, only to find that it's not showing anymore!

Nowadays many people see ticket sales as the review standard for a film. At this moment, I don't have the heart to keep trying pointlessly for Tian'anmen's ticket sales. I only hope that on the 60th anniversary of the birth of the motherland audiences can get to look at Chairman Mao, and show our highest respect to this greatest leader who opened up the country!

If my Tian'anmen wasn't well made, and audiences didn't like it, then I wouldn't be so sad. But I don't think this is the case. Many people even think that Tian'anmen is an educational film; why has a film that is popular with audiences been isolated as such? I really can't believe that at the time of the 60th birthday of the motherland, the images of Chairman is being treated thus coldly.

I want to recommend our film Tian'anmen again to audiences, before it is taken off. I want to say to all the film enthusiasts who love new China: if you watch Tian'anmen, you will feel how moving it is!

Once again I earnestly request the managers of cinemas everywhere: show Tian'anmen a few more times, and let audiences go see Chairman Mao!

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There are currently 1 Comments for What do stars having a meeting look like? On Founding of a Republic and Ye Daying's Tian'anmen.

Comments on What do stars having a meeting look like? On Founding of a Republic and Ye Daying's Tian'anmen

well, I'll give it a watch.. on DVD

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