A different made-in-China film hit

By Lu Yuhang
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail CRI, June 8, 2015
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12 Citizens was adapted from Hollywood's timeless classic, 12 Angry Men.

Acclaimed Chinese film 12 Citizens was released last month to critical acclaim. Last October it won the highest honour of the International Rome Film Festival and also won the special jurly award at the Beijing College Student Film Festival, one of the most important ceremonies of China's film industry.

Homage to the Classic

12 Citizens was adapted from Hollywood's timeless classic, 12 Angry Men. After his Russian and Japanese counterparts created their own versions of 12 Angry Men, Xu Ang, a drama director made his first step into the film industry by paying homage to it.

After news breaks that a young man coming from a rich adopted family has murdered his birth father, there is public outrage. An experiment is held through the form of a virtual court inside a law school to discuss the case. During the experiment, 12 Chinese people from different walks of life form a jury to discuss the case. At the beginning, 11 of the jury think the young man is guilty. Through questioning and reasoning, people start to think more critically about the case. Viewers are able to see people's bias and preconceptions about the suspect and also society in general. A dialogue commences between people from different classes and sheds light on mistakes they tend to make.

Made-in-China Footprints

Although inspired by 12 Angry Men, 12 Citizens is highly recognized for its localization to depict the current Chinese society.

Unlike its original version, in 12 Citizens, the young suspect is not from slums, but a rich second-generation, which is a very popular Chinese coinage nowadays to describe a person who benefits from his or her family's fortune and often with a negative meaning since those people are thought to be loafers and even bully others due to their social status.

That is why some of the leading roles in 12 Citizens think the young suspect is guilty. The bad impression left by the suspect's identity as a rich second-generation has formed their prejudice in the beginning.

Any society would have such class of people, but why does it trigger so many negative sentiments in present Chinese society? China has developed at an unexpected rate ever since the 1980s, and it has become the second largest economy merely in a span of 30 years. Such a change inevitably causes more disparities between different classes.

In contrast with the official discourse to construct a harmonious society, a growing hatred towards those who are thought to possess social resources like wealth unfairly has been formed in China. Rich second-generation emerges in such a background. At the same time, the new media enormously improve an average person's ability to express oneself, which has made rich second-generation people a target for more heated and more stereotypical discussions.

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