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China dragoons viewers to make pro-Xi film a blockbuster

AFP  |  Shanghai 

Citizens across are being corralled into cinemas to watch a propaganda film extolling the and Jinping, as an intensifying personality cult around the 64-year-old leader hits the big screen.

The mass viewings by staff from companies and government agencies have catapulted the feature-length movie, called "Amazing China" in English and released March 2, into the ranks of the country's biggest box-office earners, with saying it was already the country's highest-grossing "documentary" ever.

The feature, produced by and a group, fawns over China's achievements in science, technology, industry, and poverty reduction since took power in 2012, and the mobilisation of movie-goers underlines his increasing dominance of public life.

"Most of us are from a state tobacco company. We all came together," said a woman who was among hundreds of viewers at a cinema that was, unusually for a weekday, sold out.

"It's a very patriotic movie, and contains much of our party's doctrine, so it's our duty to watch it," she said cheerfully.

The timing of the release of the film, distributed by Alibaba Pictures, is no accident.

China's annual parliament meeting opened in on March 5 and on Sunday the Communist-controlled legislature voted to abolish presidential term limits, paving the way for indefinite rule by Xi, who has rapidly become China's most since

The move, which has prompted fears of a budding dictatorship, is part of an accelerating drive by to accumulate power as he pushes his long-term plans to propel to superpower status, backed up by a relentless domestic propaganda campaign.

The official agency said "Amazing China" was the most talked-about film at parliament, cited by various ministers as proof of the country's progress.

Breathlessly narrated segments praise China's armed forces modernisation, infrastructure achievements, space programme and economic development in backward regions like Buddhist Tibet and predominantly Muslim Xinjiang.

Critics in those regions have complained of repression by and both have suffered bouts of violent anti-Chinese unrest in recent years.

None of this is mentioned in the film. Major problems like chronic air pollution and corruption are also ignored.

Instead, Tibetans are portrayed as the appreciative recipients of Communist aid that has saved them from poverty.

"We are very grateful to the party. Long live the party!" says an elderly Tibetan woman in the documentary.

Every few minutes, Xi materialises to offer fresh wisdoms and drive home the message.

The viewer rating function on leading Chinese platform has been disabled for "Amazing China", apparently to stifle criticism.

But many Chinese complained of being pressured to see the at their own expense and to write an appraisal of it.

Some users of the Twitter-like platform pleaded with others to share their essays.

"It's like schoolchildren being taken to watch a and then given homework on it," said one user, complaining that viewers were being treated like "big babies".

At the packed screening, audience members occasionally reacted with audible excitement at key moments, but some snoring could also be heard.

One man said his trading company's cell pushed employees to attend.

"It was mandatory. But I'm glad we came. Don't you think it was great?" he asked.

Xinhua said "Amazing China" had so far earned 227 million yuan ($36 billion) -- and counting -- at the box office. "Star Wars: The Last Jedi", by comparison, made around 267 million yuan in China, according to official sources.

restricts foreign movie imports and increasingly utilises cinemas to hammer party doctrine.

Theatres across China were ordered last year to screen short clips promoting Xi-approved political messaging before feature films, and patriotic-themed blockbusters increasingly dominate the box office.

The governing film said on January 30 that 5,000 movie theatres around China would be designated as "People's Cinemas", showing only patriotic-themed content.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, March 14 2018. 17:20 IST