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September 4, 2009

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Star power features in film of the revolution

CHINA'S cultural authorities hope the likes of Jackie Chan and Jet Li will bring audiences flocking to see a state-funded movie about China's Communist revolution.
"Jian Guo Da Ye," or "The Founding of A Republic," opens in two weeks to mark the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China on October 1. In retelling the tale of Communist Party of China triumph, the movie's cast reads like a "Who's Who" of the Chinese film industry.
Besides Chan and Li, there's Zhang Ziyi of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Tiger," Stephen Chow of "Kung Fu Hustle" and action picture director John Woo, among many others.
"The Founding of A Republic" is unusual because it "combines the core of an 'ethically inspiring' film and commercial packaging," said Gao Jun, deputy general manager of the New Film Association, one of China's top multiplex chains.
Already the film is generating a buzz, but not all of it welcome. An online debate has focused on whether some of the stars had foreign passports and were therefore unfit to appear in a patriotic movie.
"Farewell My Concubine" director Chen Kaige, who has a walk-on as an enemy general, was said to be a United States citizen and Li a Singaporean.
Chen denied he had switched citizenship while at a film awards ceremony in Beijing last weekend.
Without addressing his nationality directly, Li was quoted by Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po newspaper as saying recently: "No matter where I go, my heart will always remain in the motherland."
"The Founding of A Republic" was made by China Film Group. It will be released nationwide on September 17.
Han Sanping, the China Film Group's chairman, co-directed with Huang Jianxin and personally asked some of the celebrities to take part.
Many of the stars in the movie worked for free, helping keep the movie's budget to a modest 60 million yuan (US$8.8 million) to 70 million yuan, said China Film Group spokesman Weng Li.
But rumor has it that audiences will have to pay close attention to catch all of the appearances. The lead roles - like revolutionary leader Mao Zedong - will be played by lesser known actors.
Chan plays a journalist, reportedly only delivering a few lines. Zhang is an unidentified representative from the cultural sector. Woo's character shows up in one of the trailers but was left out of the final cut.
Still, agents and representatives of the stars say it's enough to be seen. "Every actor and every director will feel very honored if he or she could take part in this movie," said Huang Bin, Chen's agent.


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