BEIJING — An advance screening of director Zhang Yimou‘s upcoming period drama Coming Home, which is set in and after China’s tumultuous Cultural Revolution, was greeted with tears and great emotion at a screening here this week.
The movie, which will have a special out-of-competition screening at Cannes, was shown in Imax 4K and features virtuoso performances by Gong Li and Chen Daoming. It also introduces newcomer Zhang Huiwen.
The film focuses on an intellectual banished to the countryside as a “Rightist” who returns after the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976.
Audiences at the screening, which took place in 20 cities around China at the same time, were moved by the way the film addresses that dreadful period of Chinese history. They loved the stunning period detail, and several older viewers sat there tearfully long after the credits had rolled.
Coming Home is set to be released on May 16 in China.
“This is how we deal with our history,” producer Zhang Zhao told The Hollywood Reporter after the event. Zhao has previously spoken of how his own family suffered during the Cultural Revolution, a decade of ideological frenzy that destroyed millions of lives.
The film marks an historic reunion for Zhang and Li, who were once romantically linked and produced some of his their most acclaimed work together (Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Lantern).
The movie is being produced by Le Vision Pictures, which Zhang joined last year as a creative director in an effort to get his juices flowing again after a period in the critical wilderness.
It’s been a roller-coaster few years for the filmmaker. Earlier this year, Zhang was fined $1.2 million for breaching China’s one-child policy, and his last film, Flowers of War, starring Christian Bale, did not perform particularly well.
In February, Zhang reportedly signed on for the Universal project The Parsifal Mosaic, an adaptation of the 1982 Robert Ludlum novel.