It may still be six days until the 34th anniversary of the Tangshan Earthquake, believed to be the largest earthquake disaster of the 20th century, but Aftershock, the movie based on the tragedy, opens today to the public.
Already, the film has been premiered in the actual Tangshan, up in North China’s Hebei province. Says Xinhua, “About 10,000 locals watched the IMAX version of the film in Tangshan Stadium, with many in tears.”
The film cost about $15 million to make and is the first IMAX film ever produced by a mainland director. The story was inspired by a novel of the same name and is a Sophie’s Choice-esque tale of a mother forcing to choose between saving either her son or daughter in the midst of the natural disaster. She chooses the son (figures, right?), but finds out years later that the daughter managed to survive after they were evacuated.
The biggest shock, considering the year of overblown State-sponsored productions we just went through, may be that it’s actually quite good. Apparently director Feng Xiaogang, famous for his satirical comedies, has focused on telling an actual human story rather than on special effects and long cinematic panning sequences.
Hollywood Reporter, one of the first non-Chinese publications to review the film, said:
While the state-of-the-art effects of the brief earthquake scenes lend the film an epic feel, and the story arc clearly harbors ambitions of encapsulating China’s strenuous road to prosperity through one family’s saga over 32 years, “Aftershock” is ultimately a small family melodrama revolving around perennial themes of love, forgiveness and coming-of-age. Feng ditches his usual sharp-tongued humor and feisty characters to concentrate on stimulating the tear ducts through traditional but polished storytelling technique.
Perhaps this will be worth checking out.