1921 review: A docudrama about the founding of the Chinese Communist Party

·2 min read
1921 is a historical drama dedicated to the 100-year anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)
1921 is a historical drama dedicated to the 100-year anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)

Length: 138 minutes
Director: Huang Jianxin, Zheng Dasheng
Cast: Huang Xuan, Ni Ni, Wang Renjun, Liu Haoran, Chen Kun
Language: Mandarin with English and Chinese subtitles

In theatres 1 July (Singapore)

3 out of 5 stars

Dedicated to the 100-year anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), 1921 is a historical drama that showcases the key persons who helped to revolutionise China, creating an important milestone in Chinese history. These significant characters are the Marxist philosopher Li Da (Huang Xuan), chairman of the CCP Mao Zedong (Wang Renjun) and co-founder of the CCP Chen Duxiu (Chen Kun).

Although 1921 was produced as a movie, the way it has been structured is actually more like a historical documentary. If you go into the theatres hoping for a dramatic storyline that focuses on a protagonist going against the antagonist, you will be disappointed. In fact, 1921 covers some of the key incidents leading to the founding of the CCP, which includes the May Fourth Movement, led by co-founder of the CCP Li Dazhao (Li Chen).

As the establishment of the CCP involved many people – it was essentially a worker revolution to overturn capitalism – quite a number of supporting characters, portrayed by some of China’s relatively young and budding actors, are introduced.

They include Liu Haoran (known for starring as Qin Feng in the Detective Chinatown film series) who acted as translator and participant in the May Fourth Movement Liu Renjing; Ni Ni (known for starring as Yu Mo in Zhang Yimou’s war film The Flowers Of War) who acted as Li Da’s wife Wang Huiwu; and guest stars like Zhu Yilong (known for starring as Shen Wei in boys’ love drama Guardian), Zhang Zhehan (known for starring as Zhou Zishu in Word Of Honour), Zhou Ye (known for starring as Gu Xiang in Word Of Honour), and Xu Kai (known for starring as Fuheng in Story Of Yanxi Palace).

However, along with that many characters, it is easy to lose track of who is who, especially if you are not familiar with Chinese politics and history. To a certain extent, the movie can be a little dry for the international audience as it is basically a recounting of key events and persons, and is perhaps more suited for people who enjoy Chinese politics and history. Nonetheless, it is eye-opening to see how the CCP came about and some of the struggles they faced.

1921 may not be a movie for the general public, but with a plethora of great actors, both main and supporting, it may still be worth a watch. Or if you would like to know about the CCP, 1921 may be a good start.

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