It’s not easy being a propagandist. When you succeed, the credit goes to whomever you’re ‘propagandizing’ and when you fail, everybody blames you.
The recent awarding of a prestigious (well, comparatively prestigious) film prize to a propaganda film has highlighted the public’s growing resistance to blatant propaganda. Perhaps more interestingly, the incident offered an insight into the minds of those who produce propaganda for the government – they know all too well that audiences are getting sick of these movies.
Recently, the August First Film Studio received an award for their piece “Shen Zhou 11”. The film, as you might have guessed from the title, highlighted China’s recent forays into space exploration. The August First Film Studio is known as a ‘military studio’. If that sounds unusual, it might be better to describe it as a propaganda studio that focuses on military topics. As a part of the China Film Group, they were one of the studios behind the recent flop ‘The Founding of a Republic’ which despite having a star-studded cast, proved to be an embarrassment for the government. The reviews were poor and audiences had to be cajoled into watching it.
When the Shen Zhou 11 received the golden rooster award, (a Chinese film award) up and coming young film director Sean Ching blasted the judge’s decision, saying it was a poor choice and it was too ‘state controlled’.
In response to the public dissatisfaction with the award, the head of the studio Ming Zhenjiang, acceded to an interview to explain himself. Some of his responses were rather interesting. He described three difficulties facing the studio, one of which was interference from the State.
He also candidly admitted to supporting other more creative projects indirectly, because their studio faces these kinds of limitations. When talking about ‘The Founding of a Party’ and its predecessor, ‘The Founding of a Republic’ he said that he didn’t believe audiences would be willing to go and see the same kinds of recycled movies for a third time.