Red Memory review – the Cultural Revolution up close

In the 1990s, something odd happened in Beijing’s burgeoning fine dining scene. Among the chic eateries, restaurants emerged with very simple dishes: meat and vegetables cooked in plain style with few frills. The diners were not there just for the cuisine, but to relive the experience of a period generally considered a disaster: the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76. The plain dishes were meant to invoke a time of restrained, austere living, when people thought of the collective rather than the individual. Only the sky-high prices reminded diners that they were…

World of Warcraft to go offline in China, leaving millions of gamers bereft

Millions of Chinese players of the roleplaying epic World of Warcraft (WoW) will bid a sad farewell to the land of Azeroth, with the game set to go offline after a dispute between the US developer Blizzard and its local partner NetEase. Massively popular worldwide, particularly in the 2000s, WoW is an online multiplayer role-playing game set in a fantasy medieval world. Known for being immersive and addictive, players can rack up hundreds of hours of game time. Blizzard’s games have been available in China since 2008, through collaboration with…

Everything Under Control review – endearing comedy caper from Hong Kong

Hoping to sustain a recent mini-resurgence of Hong Kong films through to lunar new year, Ying Chi-wen’s second feature is a silly, initially laboured but increasingly endearing comedy mashup. A remake of 2021 Taiwanese gangster film Treat or Trick, which is itself a do-over of 2004 Korean horror-comedy To Catch a Virgin Ghost, it manages to hit virtually every branch on the genre tree on the way down: Bad Boys buddy action comedy, dead wet girl Asian horror, knockabout Beijing opera farce, wuxia parody. Yau Shing (Hong Kong singer Hins…

China ends de facto ban on Marvel films after more than three years

China has ended its de facto ban on Marvel films, with superhero flicks Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania both locking in surprise release dates, after a three-and-a-half-year gap that has cost Disney hundreds of millions in ticket sales. The films will be released in February, after Chinese new year, marking the first Marvel releases in the world’s second-largest theatrical market since Avengers: Endgame in 2019. Foreign film releases are approved or denied by regulators at the China Film Administration, which is part of the Chinese…

The Battle at Water Gate Bridge review – gung-ho Chinese war epic takes on Uncle Sam

War is hell and so is a certain type of war movie: bloated, self-important and glassy-eyed with solemn patriotism. Directed by action veteran Tsui Hark, The Battle at Water Gate Bridge is the giant follow-up to China’s colossal military epic and domestic box-office smash, The Battle at Lake Changjin. It revives the tale of how, during the Korean war in the unimaginably cold winter of 1950, the Chinese army took on the US forces in Changjin county in North Korea and forced Uncle Sam to retreat towards the 38th parallel,…

Ximei review – Ai Weiwei produces inspiring portrait of Chinese Aids activist

Produced by Ai Weiwei, this is a rousing portrait of Liu Ximei, an astonishingly resilient Aids activist; it also sheds light on a controversial government campaign that accelerated the epidemic in 1990s China. During the first half of the decade, poor farmers were encouraged to donate their blood in exchange for money. Due to a lack of health and safety standards, a staggering number of donors as well as those who received transfusions contracted HIV. In Ximei’s province of Henan, more than 300,000 villagers live with the debilitating effects of…

Winnie the Pooh joins Chinese Covid lockdown protests

Years after he became character non grata in China, Winnie the Pooh is exacting quiet revenge against the country’s government in the form of Disney souvenirs. In what appears to be a case of incidental resistance, Disney stores in Japan are selling a line of merchandise featuring a frowning Pooh looking at a blank sheet of white paper – a symbol of ongoing protests in China against censorship and Covid-19 restrictions. The range, designed by the Japanese illustrator Kanahei, shows the image – taken from a scene in a 2011…

Hong Kong: City on Fire review – shocking violence in China’s city of dissent

An unflinching chronicle of the pro-democracy protests that sent shock waves through Hong Kong in 2019, Choi Ka Yan and Lee Hiu Ling’s vital, politically urgent documentary witnesses the fight for freedom from the frontline. Dynamically structured around personal testimonials, the film gives voice to the activists who dared to brave the clouds of teargas. Mounted in response to a highly controversial plan from the Hong Kong government that would allow for extradition to mainland China, the demonstrations escalated in scale after police brutality against peaceful protesters. As well as…

‘Ordinary’ Chinese vase valued at €2,000 sells for almost €8m after bidding war

An “ordinary” Chinese vase put up for auction in France and valued at €2,000 (£1,745) has sold for almost €8m after a ferocious bidding war among buyers convinced it was a rare 18th-century artefact. At the sale in Fontainebleau near Paris, auctioneers were astonished as the offers from about 30 mainly Chinese bidders kept on coming. When the hammer fell the vase had been sold for €7.7m – almost 4,000 times its estimated value. With the seller’s fees, the final purchase price was €9.12m. The tianqiuping-style porcelain was put in…

Ai Weiwei says mother, 90, warns him against China return

The Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has said his desire to be reunited with his 90-year-old mother could lead him to return to China, but that she has implored him not to give up his British exile. The sculptor and activist, who divides his time between Cambridge and Portugal, spent 81 days in custody in Beijing in 2011 and fled his home country four years later on the return of his passport. Asked by Chris Patten, the former governor of Hong Kong, at an event in London whether people who…