China Lion in deal for 'Great Revival'

China Lion Film Distribution will distribute the Chinese propaganda epic “Beginning of the Great Revival,” previously known as “The Founding of a Party,” in North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Helmed by Jianxin Huang and Sanping Han, and produced by China Film Group, pic was made to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party and is a companion piece to 2009’s “The Founding of a Republic,” about the 1949 revolution.

“Revival” stars some of China’s biggest names, including Andy Lau, Daniel Wu and John Woo.

Film opens in China on June 16 and will be released the following day in North America, Australia and New Zealand.

“Beginning of the Great Revival” deals with the three phases of the setting-up of the Communist Party, which still runs China as a single-party state and has 78 million members.

The young Mao is played by Liu Ye, and the film is part of the Communist Party’s efforts to present a modern image.

In North America the distribution partnership will enable the film to be showcased via China Lion’s exclusive deals with AMC for the U.S. and Toronto as well as Cineplex for Vancouver and Consolidated Theaters in Hawaii.

“As well as being highly anticipated by our core Chinese audience in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver, and other key cities with large Chinese populations, the film will have the ability to cross over to a wider mainstream American audience interested in the historical background that the film portrays,” China Lion CEO Milt Barlow said in a statement.

China Lion is a joint venture between prexy Jiang Yanming and Milt Barlow’s New Zealand-based Incubate. It has a deal to distribute titles for some of China’s leading studios including Huayi Bros., China Film Group, Golden Sun and Bona.

Pic has already generated controversy. Thesp Tang Wei, who was purged for her steamy role in Ang Lee’s erotic thriller “Lust, Caution” but has been rehabilitated in recent months, was cast as Tao Yi, an early girlfriend of Mao’s. However, Chairman Mao’s grandson Mao Xinyu, a major-general in the People’s Liberation Army, apparently intervened to have her cut out of the movie.

There was also some anger Stateside that the movie was being sponsored by General Motors, which was bailed out with government cash two years ago. Pic is being sponsored by Shanghai GM, which is GM’s local partner but a separate company. The irony of Cadillacs being involved in a movie about the Communist Party says a lot about China today.

“Revival” is expected to make major waves at the Chinese box office after the huge success of “Founding,” which was the top-performing Chinese movie two years ago. It’s also a high-profile blast of nationalism at a time when the Chinese biz is booming, taking in $1.5 billion at the B.O. last year.

China makes dozens of propaganda films every year, but most of them fail to make a ripple beyond China’s borders and are met with indifference by broader auds, even within China. “The Founding of a Republic” was of higher quality than the usual fare, however.

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