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Old 2010-07-31, 14:45   Link #1
TinyRedLeaf
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Join Date: Apr 2006
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Age: 39
The Great Tangshan Earthquake, aka Aftershock (Movie 2010)



Grey ash and black soot covered shell-shocked survivors, surrounded by a hellscape of twisted rubble. At one fallen building, a grieving woman who had just lost her husband pleaded with a team of ad hoc rescuers trying desperately to save her twins, trapped beneath the ruins. The men discovered the children, a boy and a girl, pinned beneath a single concrete slab. The best they could do was to lift one end of the slab and, so, the awful truth dawned upon them: To save one child, they had to crush the other.

The mother was urged to make a horrible choice: Which child to save? Cries for help from other trapped survivors could be heard nearby. Realising that the men had to leave very soon, the mother was forced, in 23 seconds, to make a decision that would haunt her for 32 years.


The Great Tangshan Earthquake occurred on July 28, 1976. It is believed to be the largest earthquake of the 20th century by the number of deaths. The epicentre of the quake was near Tangshan, a northern industrial city, about 140km from Beijing, with a population of around one million people at the time. The number of deaths initially reported by the Chinese government was 655,000, but this number has since been revised to between 240,000 and 255,000. A further 164,000 people were recorded to be severely injured. The earthquake came amid a series of political events involving the Communist Party of China. It shook China both literally and figuratively in 1976, later labelled a "cursed year" by Chinese historians. (Source: Wikipedia)


Forget Inception. This, for me, will probably be the biggest movie of the year, an oddity in Chinese cinema for being a propaganda epic that somehow manages not to be an epic in the traditional sense: It hits home not because of the scale of its production, but because of its depth of humanistic intimacy.

Unlike the movie Confucius, the romanticised story of China’s greatest sage released earlier this year, The Great Tangshan Earthquake focuses instead on the common woes of the little people affected by the massive natural disaster.

The film’s official English name is Aftershock. That, curiously, is a far more apt title, because the real story is not about the earthquake, but about its lasting impact on the survivors.

The build-up to the actual disaster takes up about only 30 minutes — the rest of the 135-minute movie follows the story of the mother, who struggles with survivor’s guilt for the rest of her life. It also chronicles the experiences of her crippled son, pulled from the ruins, and of her daughter who, unknown to the grieving mother, had actually survived, to be later adopted by a loving couple who served in the People’s Liberation Army.

Melodrama ensues, but never to the point of being maudlin. But, for me, the greater fascination comes from the documentary-like depiction of China as it changed over the 32 years following the disaster — from a country that was just emerging from the mad grip of the Cultural Revolution, to a booming nation that, like Tangshan, is now rising from the ashes of history like a fiery phoenix.

Watching the scenes of grimy, industrialising Tangshan changing gradually into a shining metropolis proved particularly poignant, because I can well relate to the pace of change, having personally witnessed the way my father’s hometown in China had similarly changed over the last 20 years.

Fascinating too, is the way in which the movie reveals an intimate side of Chinese life seldom seen in such government-backed shows. It takes a surprisingly frank look at the sexual mores of a generation that grew up under the shadow of Mao Zedong’s personality cult. It feels almost American, the way the characters behaved and thought in the movie — they come across as being much more modern than the stereotypical image we have of the Chinese, as viewed through Western media.

The story’s many layers, both on a personal and a national scale, neatly sum up Wikipedia’s description of the earthquake, of being a disaster that literally and figuratively shook China to its roots.

They are aftershocks well worth sharing, helping immeasurably to close gaps in our cultural understanding.
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Old 2010-07-31, 15:10   Link #2
james0246
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Feng Xiaogang's Aftershock (I agree, the English title is far more apt) has been a film I've been interested in since I first heard about it last year. Xiaogang is easily one of China/Hong Kong's premier directors (he's relatively new, but he's managed to climb beyond his comedy background to create some great period pieces (anyone interested in modern Chinese cinema should see Xiaogang's great (if fundamentally flawed) 2007 war epic The Assembly), of which Aftershock looks like a worthy addition), and I can't wait to see what this film has to offer (though I doubt I will ever get to see it as it is meant to be seen (in IMAX)).
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Old 2010-07-31, 18:37   Link #3
CuXe
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Ohh it would be sooo cool if they could to somehow strike a deal with IMAX, however it is highly unlikely.

BTW... Comparing Inception to this movie is like comparing Apples to Oranges BUT .... I get your point.
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Old 2010-07-31, 22:53   Link #4
TinyRedLeaf
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CuXe View Post
Ohh it would be sooo cool if they could to somehow strike a deal with IMAX, however it is highly unlikely.
The Chinese producers partnered with IMAX to create this film, and it's scheduled for a North American release in that format (source: People's Daily Online, Jan 19). The only thing that is uncertain is whether it would be a wide release. Meanwhile, the movie has generated strong opening results in 12 IMAX screens across China (source: Globe newswire, July 27), drawing US$640,000 at the box office, for a per screen average of approximately US$55,000 for the opening weekend.

To quote Mr Richard Gelfond, chief executive of IMAX: "Aftershock represents our first foray into non-US language commercial films, and we are pleased that the opening weekend results were very successful. The early results of this effort bode well for us, as IMAX explores converting other local content in China and elsewhere."

Mr Greg Foster, chairman and president of IMAX Filmed Entertainment, added: "Huayi Bros and director Feng Xiaogang created an incredible film with an emotional impact that is ideally suited for IMAX, and these opening weekend results indicate that moviegoers in China agree. The strong opening of this film is encouraging, and we believe we'll experience continued success during the weeks ahead."
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