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Thursday, October 20, 2016, 09:59

Memories of valor

By Xu Fan

The emotions of Red Army soldiers during a pivotal battle of the Long March form the basis of a new film, Xu Fan reports.

Memories of valor
The battle on Luding Bridge in 1935 played a significant role in the Red Army's Long March, and now it is portrayed in a new film The Warriors . ( Provided To China Daily)

During the Long March, a pivotal battle was fought by the Red Army when 22 soldiers risked their lives to cross a 103-meter suspension bridge under fire from the Kuomintang forces.

Reckoned as a military miracle, the conflict on Luding Bridge over the raging Dadu River in Southwest China's Sichuan province on May 29, 1935, has been recorded in the collective memory of Chinese people.

Generations have read about this heroic episode in their school textbooks.

Now, a 102-minute feature is bringing this alive on the big screen.

The Warriors , with a cast led by Li Dongxue, Yu Xiaowei and Nie Yuan, opened in Chinese theaters on Friday.

The film is part of a nationwide homage to the Communist soldiers on the 80th anniversary of the end of the Long March this year.

Lasting from 1934 to 1936, the Long March was a military retreat undertaken by the Red Army to avoid being captured by the Kuomintang's forces.

Less than 30 percent - or around 57,000 soldiers - survived the march to arrive in their destination in Northwest China's Gansu province, reported Xinhua News Agency.

For director Ning Haiqiang, a veteran known for revolutionary films, the significance of the battle attracted him to again step into the familiar zone.

"The Red Army would not survive if the soldiers hadn't succeeded in crossing the river, as Chairman Mao told American journalist Edgar Snow in Yan'an," Ning said at a Beijing event on Oct 12.

The two facts highlighted in the movie are: The Red Army troops wore sandals made of straw and covered some 120 kilometers on foot in two days to reach the bridge; and the 22 soldiers leading the charge climbed on the bridge from which many planks had been removed by the enemy and was held together only by 13 chains that were wildly swinging.

"It's a film that will make the audience hold its breath," says Ning.

"To win time from the enemy, the Red Army troops challenged the limits of human beings."

Memories of valor
The Warriors is part of a nationwide homage to the 80th anniversary of the end of the Long March. (Provided To China Daily)

Speaking of the Red Army's sacrifice and heroism that form the basis for today's China, Ning says he hopes the film will make more youngsters know the country's history and pass on the spirit of the Long March.

Chinese movies spawned from Long March stories have been frequently produced over the past few decades, he says. So to avoid stereotypes, Ning sought to make the narration, performance and production different.

"Chinese are familiar with those household stories about the Long March. So we must give them a new experience while watching the movie," explains the director, who has a career spanning nearly three decades.

They are not perfect heroes, but human beings with struggles

Ning Haiqiang, director of The Warriors

"Most revolutionary films focus on a big picture and political leaders. But The Warriors builds the story around characters and their emotions.

"They are not perfect heroes, but human beings with struggles."

To be faithful to history, the crew toured the mountainous areas the Red Army troops once traversed in southwestern China, where the altitude is up to 4,300 meters.

Mostly financed by August First Film Studio and China Film Group, the new film uses up to 1,000 special-effect takes for the big action scenarios.

Jiang Ping, general manager of China Film Group, likens The Warriors to the foreign war-themed classics such as Saving Private Ryan , Platoon and The Wild Geese .

"We may never forget the warriors in those cinematic masterpieces, but I dare to say the heroes in The Warriors are not inferior to any of them," says Jiang.

The A-list cast is another attraction of the film.

Li, starring as a regiment commander, is familiar to fans for his suave, loyal-in-love prince in the popular TV series The Legend of Zhen Huan .

Other lead stars such as Nie and Yu are familiar faces in Chinese cinema.

But Ning insists the story is the core of the movie.

"I hope the Chinese audience will accept a movie featuring our own history, which is narrated in a Chinese way," says the director.

With English subtitles already made, Ning reveals The Warriors may have an overseas distribution later.

Contact the writer at xufan@chinadaily.com.cn

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