Demagogue China's Beginnings by Susan Yung (Movie Review)


The decadences of the First World;

as reflected in the decadences

of the Third World.


Social class structures,


of shunned communi-




Where humanity is a serious


/ cry-


for the concerned citizens

the upper class are living

with such privileges

where I become

the enemy


to enjoy

the other


Democracy becomes a side order

of salad with





& American



The main course is

what they want in society,

unless the masses

agrees to recognize

the universal experiences

of suffering

to revolt.


©  Susan L. Yung 2006




Revolutionizing A Government

Revolutionizing A Government


I was asked by Steve Cannon, the blind director of A Gathering of the Tribes (AGOTT) as prompted by Tom Savage, a homosexual poet who has been to India and is a Buddhist, to review the imported movie from mainland China, Beginning of the Great Revival. Upon hearing the assignment, I, in a collaborating mood, asked Tom to co–write this review, but he declined. I think he’d rather review “Mozart’s Sister” rather than the ongoing relations and conflicts of being American Chinese who must be partial to her Mainland Chinese roots—Not. I guess Tom and Steve thought I would enjoy such a propagandized historic movie that reenacts China’s pre­–communist days of turmoils when Mao Tse-Tung was a student. In general here is a short description:


Beginning of the Great Revival, known as The Founding of a Party in China and a companion piece to 2009’s blockbuster The Founding of a Republic, details the historic events surrounding what is referred to as the Chinese Revolution, the period from 1911 to 1921, when Sun Yat-sen overthrew the Qing Dynasty and planted the roots of what has become today’s Chinese Communist government. The story shows the beginnings of the country’s most influential first-generation leaders, including Mao Zedong, Chiang Kai-shek and Zhou Enlai. Featuring a cast of over 150 of China’s biggest box office names such as Liu Ye, Chang Chen, Chen Kun, Andy Lau, Daniel Wu and John Woo. (Chinese with English subtitles)








This film’s “details the historic events” is out of the question. It attempts to be in chronological order. However with its various jump cuts, this film totally confused me with so many dates and location shots flashing arcross the screen that China’s history becomes more jumbled with killings, lectures, “hand holding” romances, and more killings.  Through the jump cut reenactments, there are battle scenes, acts of heroisms, lectures, speeches, street riots, secret meetings, counter conspiracies, emperor court proceedings, establishment of the Republic of China, assassinations, and plenty of student protests, the movie is how Mao, once a foot soldier, an astute enthusiastic student studying Marxism-Leninism and finally the formation of the Communist Party in China. The movie opens with location shots of gov’t officials talking on the eve of WWI where the Germans after losing the war gave its portion of China to Japan. There were many quick fast one liners explaining the worse of two evils America or Japan. One official states “Has Americans ever helped China?”


An important scene is the politics of the pigtails where one is identified as the Han Clan. After its western modernization via modern dress, the pigtails had to be cutoff. In resistance, there is a scene with an honored philosophy professor who becomes ridiculed by faculty and student members debating Confucius’ traditions as oppressive regime vs modernization. Then, the Boxer’s Rebellion ensues with more conflicts in Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Hu’nan, wherever unrest presided while a jump cut refers to the last emperor who ascended the throne in his infancy is sympathetic to a caged cricket and Sun Yat-Sen was establishing his first Republican nation to appease Westerners and Japan’s encroaching modernism. Another jump cut to a general or administrator wishing to become the next emperor. He is seen lovingly caressing the emperor’s robe and the next seen shows him lying dead wearing the robe at his funeral. After an hour and half we finally watch the signing of the Versailles Treaty where the Chinese delegates walked out after publicly announcing the secret joint agreement between Germany and Japan. Thus caused further malcontents and uprisings which led to the first Sino Japanese war, the movie, “The Sand Pebbles” (starring Steve McQueen & Mako, a Japanese American performing a Chinese “coolie” who got Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor but instead Walter Mattheau got the award for “The Fortune Cookie” movie) and further prompted Mao-Tse Tung to emulate Russia’s Bolshevik (peasant) revolution, led by the bourgeoisie.


The movies had wars, some romance, history and cast of thousands willing to dress up and get paid nothing, as well as a star–studded cast of 150 Chinese actors whose names kept appearing whenever the actor spoke his parts.  (I should get out my red book of Mao’s quotes … then I’ll totally be misunderstood or not) Thus it became very difficult to read the subtitles and view the reenactments, simultaneously. With all the busyness when the subtitles flash as quickly as the spoken Chinese I could only read half the sentences and make up my own conclusions. My attention span soon dims and can’t wait until the movie ends.


The scene changes every half minute from a “farewell” railroad scene with friends or government official consoling his daughter; to Versailles to sign its Treaty or not; to secret meetings, to hotels of frightened couple being killed, to the streets of Shanghai/Beijing where two Russians are being followed by a bicycler as they ride a rickshaw through the city’s narrow streets; to some battlefields where a hero leads the charge and rushes up a hill, inspiring other shows to overrun a hill like Bunker Hill in “The Patriot” movie or in opening shots of Russell Crowe in “The Gladiator”. It looked like a civil war where grey uniformed Chinese are killing blue uniformed Chinese with unlimited cast of extras. In part it felt like Russia’s “War & Peace”. After awhile seeing Chinese killing Chinese makes the audience immune and careless what were the causes and demands for a war.


The last half hour focuses on Mao Tse-Tung slowly taking up the leadership to organize the Communist Party, quoting the “Communist Manifesto”, then cut to the many student uprisings due to what? Reaction towards the Versailles Treaty? Or somehow, they convinced police/soldiers to side for their causes where they successfully invade government officials for betraying a nation. This became a reminder of the student’s roles in the Tiananmen Square Massacre for democratic reforms where there were sit-ins, hunger strikes, and other peaceful tactics until the military’s invasion. Eventually the student leaderships escaped to America and became political scientists, engineers, or artists at Princeton University. As for Americans, it would be Kent State where 4 students were randomly shot while protesting the Vietnam War. However, this film did not show any student killings when other movies ie “The Last Emporer” depicted students being mowed down my soldiers. When thirteen students held their “secret” meetings to formulate a new nation’s agenda, there was a lot of sloganeering, postulating and finally the people’s song in Chinese, “chi-lai, chi-lai” that quickly segued soap–boxed debates to recruit peasants nationwide and then quick historical shots of Mao’s Long March inland etc. and the rest is history.


Addendum: The movie did not meet China’s expectations of having a full house in a major distributing movie house, Lowe’s AMC. There were only 2 couples and I sitting in an air–conditioned 75 seat theater. It proved to be a poor investment to depend on Americans to repay their debts to China.


Susan L. Yung

July 8, 2011