Taiwan's Cape No 7 and the mainland's The Assembly are two high-profile films set against the wartime turbulence of 1940s China and are unqualified blockbusters in their places of origin. They cover the same period, have been big hits at home and are in contention tonight for best picture at Taiwan's prestigious Golden Horse film awards. But each has been given the cold shoulder by cinema-goers on opposite sides of Taiwan strait, exposing cultural divides and differences in historical perspective. Cape No 7 broke Taiwan's box-office record but may never be seen officially on the mainland although illegal DVDs of the movie are available in major mainland cities. The Assembly pulled in more than 260 million yuan (HK$293 million) last year and won several big mainland awards but failed to make an impression in Taiwan, where it earned about NT$100,000 (HK$23,000). The Assembly starts during the biggest battle of the civil war in 1948, as a Communist captain is ordered to defend a position until he hears the assembly call. The call never comes, and the captain is the sole survivor. He endures a barrage of unfair treatment after the founding of the People's Republic of China, but never gives up his quest to have his 47 fallen comrades honoured. He repeatedly appeals to the Communist Party to search for the bodies, and the dead men are eventually recognised as martyrs and buried in 1958. The film won mainland hearts and is seen as the first Chinese-made modern war epic that does not serve a propaganda purpose. The Assembly touches on many sensitive subjects - bordering on taboos - about the Communist army, such as the fears Communist soldiers had in battle and the unfair official treatment of military personnel. In one scene, a captain murders a surrendered Kuomintang soldier. Mainland audiences said The Assembly was totally different from official propaganda war movies in that it reflected the brutality of war, was historically accurate and had made Chinese rethink their history. But unlike their mainland counterparts, few Taiwanese viewers went to see the film because most never heard of it. Part of the problem may have been the movie's backdrop, the Huaihai Campaign or Battle of Hsupeng, which involved 600,000 Communist-led soldiers pitted against 800,000 KMT soldiers. 'I don't like the movie. It recalls our pain in that the Kuomintang lost the battle, never recovered from the defeat and soon retreated to Taiwan,' a Taiwanese netizen said. Some viewers said they felt uneasy about seeing scenes in which KMT soldiers made stupid errors and were killed by Communists. Taiwanese netizens tended to see The Assembly as Communist propaganda designed to mask an undemocratic political system. 'But hey, this is a Chinese film produced specifically for mainland audiences. Which means this: a film cannot be critical of the government unless the filmmaker wants to be banned from the industry,' a Taiwanese netizen posted on tianya.com, a popular mainland forum. 'By the end of the film, the Communist government eventually took care of its people and was righteous towards the captain and his brothers. 'It's a kind of fake righteousness. It's Communist propaganda.' Cape No 7, a romantic comedy with a combination of characters reflecting the cultural and ethnic diversity of Taiwan, made Taiwan audiences laugh and cry while delivering a message of tolerance, according to Taiwanese media. The China Times praised it as a 'love letter to Taiwan, highlighting the island's collective memory'. But the success of Cape No 7 was not repeated on the other side of the strait. It came under fire from mainland netizens for its allusions to Taiwanese independence and admiration of Japan. 'I felt confused when I saw the film's most impressive scene, the one where Taiwanese locals turn out at the docks [at the end of the second world war] to say reluctant goodbyes to Japanese soldiers. We've been taught that the Japanese killed countless innocent Asian people in the second world war. Don't Taiwanese people know that fact?' a Guangzhou college student said. A mainland engineer in her mid-30s said: 'It's hard to understand why the movie describes the relationship between Taiwanese people and Japanese as peaceful and beautiful during Japan's colonisation of Taiwan.' Another netizen said: 'It's weird that Taiwanese people admire the main character - a furious, selfish and irresponsible young man stealing others' private letters - as an icon for Taiwan.'