The 800 – The Birth of Sinowood and the KMT as heroic Chinese 300
From Hu Guan
With Zhi-Zhong Huang, Hao Ou, Wu Jiang
The Chinese film 800 by Hua Guan and with Zhi Zhong Huang, Hao Qu and Wu Jiang is the Chinese equivalent of 300 and the battle of the Thermophyls, but not so decisive in the war. Briefly about the plot: In 1937, 800 Chinese soldiers fight for survival in a warehouse that is completely surrounded by the Japanese army in the middle of Shanghai. The Chinese city was overrun by the Japanese, now the few remaining troops, consisting of the 542nd Regiment of the National Revolutionary Army of China and some poorly trained security forces, are supposed to stop the advance of the attackers by sacrificing themselves, attract international attention and to serve as a gesture of resistance.
October 1937. In the first months of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the fighting moves to Shanghai. A city in which foreign colonial powers have sovereignty over individual districts (concessions) that are largely spared by Japanese bomber pilots of the Imperial Japanese Army. A city in which, among other things, the foreign Shanghainese can observe the war events in the contested Chinese districts of Shanghai from a safe distance from the concessions because, among other things, natural boundaries, such as the Suzhou River, ensure that there are distances between the districts.
After the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) withstood the Japanese army for more than three months at the Battle of Shanghai, it suffers such heavy losses that it withdraws for lack of reserves and runs the risk of being surrounded. In order to ensure a successful withdrawal, Lt. Col. Xie Jinyuan, on the orders of Chiang Kai-shek (President of the Republic of China, who is also involved in the Chinese Civil War), leads 452 soldiers from the 88th Division of the NRA to the Sihang warehouse – and there in a fight against them 3rd Imperial Japanese Division with 20,000 men. In order to raise morale within the population, Defense Forces commander Xie Jinyuan truthfully informed citizens outside the camp that 800 soldiers are defending the camp. Although their latest uprising seems like a suicide mission, they are giving everything they have to defend their homeland.
On the one hand, Sinowood is establishing itself here as an international film producer after Hollywood and Bollywood. On the other hand, the IMAX technology used is a pioneering technological achievement. The Chinese mega-project The 800 developed into the most profitable film worldwide in 2020, surpassing all Hollywood films. In the year of the Corona crisis, it was also the first most successful film to achieve this title with revenues of less than one billion dollars.
In addition, the largest Chinese fintech companies from Jack Ma`s Alibaba to Tencent participated in the production. The Eight Hundred is the first Asian film to be shot entirely on cameras developed for IMAX. In Suzhou, 68 buildings were built on an area of 133,333 square meters for the film set. The production cost was 550 million yuan (the equivalent of 80 million US dollars). The shooting ran from September 9, 2017 to April 27, 2018. Over 1,500 people were directly and indirectly involved in the production of the film. Huayi Brothers, Alibaba Pictures, Tencent Pictures and Beijing Enlight Media were involved in the production.
Thirdly, however, and this is remarkable, a film by the Chinese Communist Party-ruled mainland China portrays the Kuomindang troops of Chiang Kai-shek as heroic patriots and true Chinese. In June 2019, a few days before the Shanghai International Film Festival, at which the film’s premiere was planned, the film was removed from the festival’s program and promotional events for the film were canceled.
The Red Culture Research Association had previously discussed the film. An exaggerated display of the flag of the Republic of China was reported in the discussion. In addition, the portrayal of Chiang Kai-shek, the Kuomintang Party and the National Revolutionary Army was described as glorifying and falsifying history in the discussion. Panellists reportedly included researchers, critics and a former propaganda officer on the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army, Jia Zhangke, a Chinese filmmaker, publicly criticized the decision to withdraw.
The 800 originally had its premiere on June 15, 2019. The world premiere was canceled the day before. Although the reason given was “technical difficulties”, international media later argued that the postponement was due to a lack of political sensitivity on the part of producers. 2019 marked the 70th anniversary of the Communist Party’s victory over the nationalists. The new release date was July 5, 2019, before the release was postponed to 2020. On August 21, 2020, the film was finally released in China in a version shortened by 13 minutes. In the same year the film was released in Australia, South Korea, New Zealand, Great Britain and Turkey, among others. The listed company China Media Capital took over the international distribution. The film was released on video on demand in Germany on February 11, 2021. It would be interesting to know how the film is received – also in mainland China and Taiwan.
View trailer: Click here (Google/Youtube)