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Relive history with 'Examination 1977'
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Poster of 'Examination 1977'

Poster of "Examination 1977"

China's College Entrance Examination, known as "Gaokao" has been the most competitive test for Chinese students. However, it was even more critically fate changing for the educated youth more than thirty years ago in 1977, when China resumed this system after a ten-year-long Cultural Revolution.

"Restoring Gaokao is much more important than Gaokao itself!" That's also the resonating story line in the newly released Jiang Haiyang's film "Examination 1977."

According to records, more than 5.7 million Chinese people aged from 15 to 36 sat the exam that year. It changed the lives of many who went on to achieve greatness in various fields.

Against a backdrop of the cold wilderness of northeastern China's Heilongjiang Province in the 1970s, the film highlights the struggles and pursuit of many "Zhiqing", literally the educated young people sent to the countryside for re-education during the Cultural Revolution that broke out in 1966. It follows their desperate efforts to escape and return to schooling in urban cities through Gaokao, the first examination system restored in 1977, after its abolishment in 1966.

Dubbed as the common people's epic film, "Examination 1977" is a real tear-jerker and has garnered box office receipts of about five million yuan in the first four days after its premiere on April 3. The following word-of-mouth buzz is drawing large audiences and many people are still pouring into theaters to see it.

China has so many TV or film productions about the special group of "sent down" students in the middle of the 1960s-1970s, but none has brought ordinary Chinese closer to what exactly happened to those young people. Thus it aroused instant resonance among many audience members, especially many middle-aged people who took exams that year.

Storytelling from a realistic perspective and a very individual level has contributed greatly to the success of this mainstream film.

A still from Jiang Haiyang's film 'Examination 1977' starring veteran actor Wang Xuebing, Sun Haiying, Zhou Xianxin and Zhao Youliang.

A still from Jiang Haiyang's film "Examination 1977" starring veteran actor Wang Xuebing, Sun Haiying, Zhou Xianxin and Zhao Youliang.

The story begins with the news of the upcoming restoration of the Gaokao, which triggered a huge commotion among a group of young people from Beijing and Shanghai who were consigned to work on a farm in Heilongjiang Province for eight years. Among them, some were married to locals, some lost their lives to that remote land where they spent the prime of their youth while many others were still ambitious and strive for the day they return home.

Strong friendships between the youth, love and hatred between daughters and parents with political background as a "counterrevolution", ideological differences between the young people and the farm authorities, hard choice of love and faith... the film interconnects all those elements.

It shows not only an individual's desperate pursuit of changes in life but also represents a nation's respect and craving for knowledge after a decade long tumultuous period. Though reflecting upon a traumatic time in history, the film is heartwarming and spirit-lifting as all the conflicts reconciled and humanitarian elements from all characters make the movie quite enjoyable.

Produced by the Shanghai Film Group Corp, "Examination 1977" stars veteran actor Wang Xuebing, Sun Haiying, Zhou Xianxin and Zhao Youliang. It is the first to open among a series of films which pay tribute to the country's 60th anniversary this October.

So why not buy a ticket and check it out for yourself?

(CRI April 15, 2009)

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