The Big Parade (1986 film)

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The Big Parade
Directed by Chen Kaige
Written by Gao Lili
Starring Wang Xueqi
Music by Zhao Jiping
Qu Xiaosong
Cinematography Zhang Yimou
Edited by Zhou Xinxia
Guangxi Film Studio
Release date
Running time
103 minutes
Country China
Language Mandarin

The Big Parade (simplified Chinese: 大阅兵; traditional Chinese: 大閱兵; pinyin: Dà Yuèbīng) is a 1986 Chinese film directed by Chen Kaige. It is the story of a tough drill sergeant and his raw recruits, and was photographed by Zhang Yimou.

Today, the film stands somewhat in the shadows to Chen Kaige's better-known works, including his directorial debut Yellow Earth and the Palme d'Or winning Farewell, My Concubine.


The Big Parade is often seen as an exploration of the relationship of collectivism versus individualism.[1] At the time, however, some western critics, including the New York Times, took the film at face value, seeing it as propagandist and describing it as a "boot camp" film. The New York Times, in particular, derided the film as a "Recruiting Poster for Collective Action."[2] If critics felt that this was merely China's newest propaganda film, this was due in part to the heavy hand of the Chinese Film Bureau. Originally, Chen had not shot an actual parade to conclude his film, only obscure silhouettes of soldiers against a sunset, an artistic decision that shocked "both army and censors."[3] Even forcing the director to insert more traditional imagery, censors nevertheless withdrew the film from the 1987 Cannes Film Festival without explanation.[3]

Despite its apparent support of collectivism, some scholars have noted a more ambiguous subtext to the film, suggesting that the film's imagery is less simplistic than such early reviews suggested. As one scholar writes, Chen explores the relationship between the collective and the individual, but wants to leave the relationship ambiguous.[1] Another Chinese film scholar, Zhang Yingjin, also sees a subtext of criticism of the Chinese notion of its own nationhood, even as the film's rhetoric veers towards the propagandist.[4]


One aspect of the film that is not in dispute, however, is Zhang Yimou's photography. The New York Times wrote upon the film's American screening in 1988 that it was "[Zhang's] photography that lifts The Big Parade out of the rudely fashioned trench of its story."[2] Zhang would go on to become a major film director himself, directing his debut, Red Sorghum, in 1987.


  1. ^ a b Zhou Xuelin (2007). Young Rebels in Contemporary Chinese Cinema. Hong Kong University Press, p. 73. ISBN 978-962-209-849-7. Google Book Search. Retrieved 2009-01-02.
  2. ^ a b Goodman, Walter (1988-03-15). "Movie Review - The Big Parade". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  3. ^ a b Gargan, Edward (1987-07-12). "China's Cultural Crackdown". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  4. ^ Zhang Yingjin (1997), "From 'Minority Film' to 'Minority Discourse': Questions of Nationhood and Ethnicity in Chinese Cinema" in Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Identity, Nationhood, Gender. University of Hawaii Press, p. 94. ISBN 0-8248-1845-8. Google Book Search. Retrieved 2009-01-02.

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