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“Back To 1942” Reveals China’s Forgotten History

Xueqiao Ma |
December 2, 2012 | 2:00 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

"Back to 1942" movie poster.
"Back to 1942" movie poster.
It’s been 70 years since China’s Henan Province struggled with a deadly drought in 1942. “Back to 1942” is the first film ever to chronicle the disaster, and its release Friday brought hundreds of Chinese and American viewers alike to the screening. A long line formed at the AMC theater, with some eager audience members arriving two hours ahead of the screening time.

“Back to 1942” tells the story of the drought in Northern Henan Province during the period of anti-Japanese war in China. The province was subsequently devastated by the most tragic famine in modern Chinese history, resulting in the deaths of at least three million men, women and children. The film is based on Zhenyun Liu’s novel “Remembering 1942.” 

Following the screening, the audience was quiet and then broke into applause. Chinese student Haowang Wang took away a valuable lesson from the story. “It reflects some reality...don’t waste any food," he said. Wang is the president of the Southwest Chinese Students and Scholars Association, which hosted the screening event as a partner with ReelMe, a film fan group organized by USC students. 

Audience members arrived early and eagerly awaited the screening (Xueqiao Ma/Neon Tommy)
Audience members arrived early and eagerly awaited the screening (Xueqiao Ma/Neon Tommy)
“It’s a forgotten history. The film showed us what happened during the year and also reminded us, the new generation, to remember and learn from the history,” Wang continued.

American actor and producer Robert Factor felt shocked after seeing the film. “I’ve always loved Chinese culture,” he said. “It is unbelievable, I’ve never heard the history before...so sad.” 

Another Chinese student, Jie Ma, went out from the screening room with red eyes. “I cried for half of the film...I just can’t help crying,” she said, her voice still a little weak. 

Some thought the film had an introspective message. “The war is too cruel. We have to be strong enough,” said Lapyan Tang. 

The 210 million yuan ($33 million) epic was directed by well-known Chinese director Feng Xiaogang. Alongside the Chinese actors, Adrien Brody also stars as journalist Theodore H. White, who tries to expose the truth of the deadly drought to Chiang Kai-Shek. Tim Robbins appears briefly as the American priest Thomas Megan, who helps White with food and supplies.

Reach Staff Reporter Xueqiao Ma here.



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