Boy battles wicked landlord

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2007, 12:00am

Sparkling Red Star

In Sparkling Red Star - a mainland-produced animation - the most emotional scene comes when a Red Army soldier gives his son a red star badge as a symbol of hope, courage and sacrifice just before he goes off to war.

It is classic propaganda stuff; the kind of material that would shake a mainland theatre to its foundations with the reception it would get some 40 years ago.

But today's China is an economic monster that chews up more traditional values than the toxic industrial wastes it produces a day. Will children today find a story about a brave boy fighting against a wicked landlord interesting?

The film, set in 1937 against the background of the Red Army's Long March, is based on a children's novel made popular in the 60s and 70s.

The story is about a 10-year-old boy whose village is terrorised by an evil landlord. The boy and his mother flee with the Red Army.

On the way, the child learns about teamwork and sacrifice and becomes a courageous young man.

Directed by Hong Kong action filmmaker Dante Lam Chiu-yin and produced by a team of mainland animators, the film boasts strong visuals that rival the work of famed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki.

The countryside scenery - the blue sky stretching from one horizon to another, the fluffy clouds and the golden rice fields - are like watercolour paintings rich in colour and texture.

The action sequences, particularly the gunfights between the Red Army captain - the hero in the movie - and an evil sharpshooter, are surprisingly tense and entertaining.

The crucial scene in which the child's mother sacrifices her life to save the Red Guards is tragic and shocking.

Voices for the characters are provided by Canto-pop stars, such as the girl group Twins (Charlene Choi Cheuk-yin and Gillian Chung Yan-tung) and Kenny Kwan, whose presence makes the film more appealing to teenagers.

But the best performer is Cantonese opera singer Law Ka-ying, who delivers a campy performance as the villainous landlord.

It is unfair to compare Sparkling Red Star with hi-tech Disney productions.

But the film represents a memorable first step on the road to Chinese animation's revival.

Sparkling Red Star is now showing