Sunday, June 20, 2010

Civil War Drama Wins at Shanghai TV Festival Awards

The 16th Shanghai Television Festival was held this month, culminating in the holding of its Magnolia Awards for both Chinese and international productions. The Road We Have Taken (人间正道是沧桑) was the big winner amongst the local productions. The Chinese civil war drama won the TV Series Golden Award, Best Director (Zhang Li and Liu Miaomiao) and Best Actor (Huang Zhizhong). The other major winner was A Beautiful Daughter-in-Law Era (媳妇的美好时代): it took out the runners-up TV Series Silver Award, Best Actress (Bai Han), and Best Screenplay.

The Road We Have Taken's title can be literally translated as The World is Full of Vicissitude, and is actually a Mao Zedong quotation. The series is also known under the not-so-catchy English title of Vicissitudes: Course of Uprightness (the title used on the official Shanghai TV Festival website), and is based on a book by Jiang Qitao. The storyline spans three decades, and is about a family torn apart during the Civil War. Two brothers (played by Sun Honglei and Zhang Zhizhong) find themselves on opposite sides during the war, one a high-ranking official in the Communist Party, the other also an officer but with the Nationalist Party. The series also, according to the publicity blurb, "shows the historical inevitability of the Communist Party taking the place of the Nationalist Party and establishing the New China". So a little bit of Marxist Historical Determinism theory thrown in with the family feuding.

The Road We Have Taken was one of many productions from last year that were timed to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic. It stands out from other civil war dramas because of its realistic battle scenes - special effects were by the same Korean team responsible for the award-winning film Assembly. The Road We Have Taken cost a reported 50 million yuan (or about US$7.5 million) to make, relatively expensive by mainland standards.

The 41 year-old Huang Zhizhong (黄志忠), who was recognised as Best Actor, is almost a staple of mainland historical TV dramas. He made his acting debut back in the 1996 drama Cao Cao, and has gone on to appear in over 30 productions. His series include the all-star Big Family (2000), Great Ming Dynasty 1566 (2006) and Ghost Plan 1950 (2008). The Magnolia Award is his first major acting award.

A Beautiful Daughter-in-Law Era is another family saga, but set in modern-day Beijing. Mixing comedy and drama it focuses on a newly-married couple and their newly-acquired in-law families. I came across an insightful review of the program, particularly from a Westerner's perspective, at a blog called Mark's China Blog. Bai Han (柏含), winner of the Best Actress award, is a veteran actress - she played the title character's mother in the series.

Awards were also given for animated series, and popular children's show Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf (喜羊羊与灰太狼) won the Golden Award. A PDF link to all the award winners in English, including the international category winners, can be found at the Festival website.

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