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Film 'Back to 1942': Tragedy without tears

By Wei Xi (Global Times)

10:56, November 30, 2012


"It has been so many years and you want to write such a wretched thing. What do you want?" This is the last voice-over in Back to 1942, the latest film by domestic director Feng Xiaogang.

In the year 1942, the most serious and urgent issue for the 10 million people in China's Henan Province was how to feed themselves. Following a severe drought, a locust plague came. In less than a year, according to historical records, some 3 million people died from famine.

Yet, few people, amazingly even many victims who lived through it, still remember this tragedy.

Adapted from Liu Zhenyun's 1992 novel Wengu 1942, the film Back to 1942 reflects the widespread disaster mainly through the experiences of two families: the family of Fan, a former landlord; and the family of Xialu, Fan's tenant. Also, there are scenes depicting the reactions of the Chinese government and some foreigners.

On the way to Shaanxi Province, in an attempt to flee the famine, the two families find nothing but more famine. Moreover, they lose almost everything along the way.

Back to 1942 is a very different work for director Feng Xiaogang, who is more well-known for comedies like The Dream Factory (1997) and If You Are the One (2009).

Although Feng's 2010 work Aftershock, about a severe earthquake in Tangshan, Hebei Province in 1976, can also be labeled as a disaster film, Back to 1942 offers a better analysis on Chinese people's humanity.

In Aftershock, we see people lose members of their families and yet pull themselves up again. Audiences grieve with the characters and admire their courage. Aftershock was regarded as one of the most tear-provoking films of that year.

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