CHINA’S President Xi Jinping has had a busy few weeks. With his clearing a path to rule indefinitely, the inevitable parallels with Chairman Mao, and the sweeping changes he has implemented to China’s parliament, it would have been easy to miss the Xi-centred record-breaking box office smash that hails his leadership.
Amazing China, as the state-produced documentary is called, hit theatres on March 2 and has proven a resounding success, raking in over 300 million yuan (US$47 million) since its release.
Critics and state media have called it a widely-loved “epic” with “mind-blowing sequences” and the ability to have a “huge social effect” in the country.
— Eva Zheng 郑怡斌 عائشة (@evazhengll) March 3, 2018
“The documentary serves as a model for quality mainstream movies and shows that works of art can be more than just mere entertainment,” Zhao Baohua, movie critic and deputy director of the Chinese Film Literature Association, told China Daily.
High praise indeed. But the movie’s place as the highest grossing documentary movie in China’s history may not be solely down to good camera angles and captivating narrative.
Mandatory viewings of the film are undoubtedly helping it creep towards its target of one billion yuan of ticket sales. According to a report from the South China Morning Post, employees of state-owned enterprises have been ordered to watch Amazing China. The Federation of Trade Unions in Guangdong province also put out a notice requiring the active promotion of the film, including the organisation of theatre viewings.
“In addition to the news about [scrapping] presidential term limits, this is all a bit too much,” a staffer who was forced to watch the movie told the Hong Kong paper.
The 90-minute documentary focuses on a series of achievements China has made since Xi came to power in 2012. It’s aimed at demonstrating the country’s strength in scientific, technological, diplomatic and military fields. According to AFP, Xi himself appears every few minutes to offer fresh wisdom and drive home the message.
The film is one of the highest rated movies on Chinese review site Maoyan, pulling in an impressive 9.6 out of 10 rating. But the more trustworthy movie-review site Douban has reportedly disabled the comments section and is only allowing media ratings of the film.
影评中我喜欢的是网友Georgia1984的意见：“必看！这绝对是本世纪我看过最棒的电影！一票难求，因为政府把票都包了，这正是中国史无前例雄起的象征。这个全世界最幸福的国家人人都无语了。豆瓣网也无语了，关闭了评分评论，只显示”媒体评分“，代表全国最诚实、客观的媒体意见… 满怀着敬意，我给1分！” pic.twitter.com/iQagrxRuHU
— KurikoC (@kuriko_c) March 8, 2018
On international review site IMDb, Xi’s propaganda project has received a less glowing appraisal, getting just one star out of five after 93.4 percent of the almost 2,500 votes went for the lowest possible score.
The comments section on IMDb has also been removed despite having numerous comments from viewers. There has been no explanation as to why the site has deleted previously posted reviews.