China Lion to Release Chinese Communist Party Epic in North America, Australia, New Zealand

The China Film Group production marks the 90th anniversary of the founding of China's ruling political party.

BEIJING – This June, China Lion Film Distribution will release the drama celebrating Chinese communism once known as The Founding Of A Party but renamed Beginning of the Great Revival for overseas English-language markets including North America, Australia and New Zealand, the start-up partnered with US theater chain AMC told The Hollywood Reporter on Friday.

Produced by the state-run China Film Group, Beginning of the Great Revival is the sister film to The Founding of a Republic, China Film’s 2009 paean to the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Like Founding -- China’s third biggest Chinese-language box office success to date, having grossed 419 million yuan ($65 million) – Beginning also features roughly 150 of China biggest movie stars, including actors Andy Lau, Daniel Wu, actress Zhou Xun and director John Woo in a cameo role.

Unlike Founding, Beginning will see a release by China Lion in major cities outside China at a time when the country’s one-party government is keen to use all media to spread the leadership’s preferred message about China to the world.

Directed by Huang Jianxin and CFG Chairman Han Sanping, Beginning will follow the lives of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, played by Chinese actors Liu Ye and Chen Kun, respectively, and Chiang Kai-shek, played by Taiwan actor Chang Chen. It tells the story of the rise of China’s communists from the time of Russia’s October Revolution of 1917 through the founding of the Chinese Communist Party on July 1, 1921, 90 years ago.

Highlighting the sensitivity with which the film is being treated, actress Tang Wei, whose career was thought to be emerging from the shadow of a two year ban from film work in China after her racy appearance in Ang Lee’s Lust Caution, saw her scenes as an early lover of Mao’s cut from the film.

CFG will release Beginning in China on June 16, and China Lion will release it following day in North America, Australia and New Zealand.

China Lion was founded in 2010 to distribute Chinese language films via an exclusive deal with AMC, North America’s No. 2 theater chain, for the U.S. and Toronto markets.

Led by CEO Milt Barlow in Sydney and President Jiang Yanming, China Lion also has deals to distribute Chinese films, including Beginning, with Cineplex in Vancouver and Consolidated Theatres in Hawaii.

“We are honored that China Film Group has chosen to partner with China Lion on this landmark picture. As well as being highly anticipated by our core Chinese audience in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver, and other key cities with large Chinese population, the film will have the ability to cross over to a wider mainstream American audience interested in the historical background that the film portrays,” Barlow said in a statement.

China Lion is a joint venture between Barlow’s Auckland, New Zealand-based Incubate and Jiang in Beijing.

China Lion’s mandate, established at the American Film Market in November 2010, is to supply up to 15 Chinese-language films per year in each territory it serves, releasing them with English subtitles and in most cases, day-and-date with China.

China Lion has so far distributed titles for some of China’s leading studios including Huayi Brothers, CFG, Golden Sun and NYSE-listed Bona Group.