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The testing times that helped make famous people

THE year 1977 is unforgettable for many Chinese people - it was the year when the national college entrance examination was resumed after being abolished for 11 years during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76).

More than five million Chinese people aged from 15 to 36 sat the exam that year. It changed the lives of many who went on to achieve greatness in various fields.

An epic film depicting this period of Chinese history is slated to screen nationally from April 3.

Produced by Shanghai Film Group Corp, the movie follows a group of young people who are eager to accept the challenge and fulfill their college dreams.

Chinese mainland actor Wang Xuebing, famous for his portrayal of police officers in TV dramas and films, plays the hero, Pan Zhiyou, an honest, warm-hearted young man who helps his friends take the exam.

"The movie also pays tribute to the former leader Deng Xiaoping who restored the exam in 1977," says Wang Tianyun, vice president of Shanghai Film Group Corp. "The resumed exam rekindled the dreams of many young Chinese people."

Those who took the exam went on to become the elite of the country, like film makers Zhang Yimou and Tian Zhuangzhuang. Jiang Haiyang, director of the film, was one of the lucky students who in 1978 were enrolled at the Beijing Film Academy.

"The film sets out to stir a deep memory for many people," Jiang says. "Some were fortunate enough to enter college like me while others still lament that they missed what they consider the best chance to change their future."

There are many touching scenes in the movie replete with the love, friendship and family affection of that era. Most of the scenes were shot in remote villages in northeastern China's Heilongjiang Province, a common location for thousands of urban middle school students who underwent reeducation through years of labor during the "cultural revolution."

Audiences will also find typical scenes of family life in the countryside at that time with wooden toilet buckets, old-fashioned radios and television sets. These help create a nostalgic ambience.

"That's why this movie is so realistic," Director Jiang says, adding that the film will also change many of the stereotypes of young people who think mainstream domestic films are boring, dry and insipid.

At the premiere screening in Peking University last week, students were moved to tears.

After watching some scenes, famous writer and poet Zhao Lihong speaks highly of the film. He was enrolled by the Chinese Department of East China Normal University in 1978.

"For me the most impressive scene in the movie is watching a batch of young people running to catch the train for the exam room," Zhao recalls. "Thirty years ago, I was one of them taking a chance to change my life."


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