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Controversial historical drama 'Forever Young' tops China's box office

Controversial historical drama 'Forever Young' tops China's box office
British actress Karen Gillan poses before a news conference in Beijing for "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle." The movie has grossed $66.5 million in China since its debut Jan. 12. (Mark Schiefelbein / Associated Press)

Chinese historical drama “Forever Young” crept to the top of China’s box office last week, even as it sparked controversy over the country’s own revisionist history.

The film took in $46.6 million, according to firm consulting firm Artisan Gateway, accumulating $68.3 million in 10 days and catapulting it to one of the year’s top-grossing films.

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The period drama stars Chinese celebrities Zhang Ziyi, Huang Xiaoming and Wang Leehom, and follows four generations of college students through a century of Chinese modern history — from the days before Mao Tse-tung founded the People’s Republic, through the chaotic Cultural Revolution and into contemporary society.

“Forever Young” aims to celebrate the pivotal role top colleges play in society, and commemorate the 100th anniversary of one of China’s leading schools, Tsinghua University. But it divided viewers, some of whom scoffed at its theme of pursuing truth in a country that restricts free speech.

“It’s ironic that the film encourages us to inherit the spirit of pursuing truth from colleges, while we are facing an unprecedented scale of censorship,” one viewer commented on film-rating website Douban.com.

Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan returned to the Middle Kingdom with his latest musical drama, “Secret Superstar.” The film, which made $27.3 million in its opening weekend, already has doubled the ticket sales of “Dangal,” Khan’s previous film and the highest grossing non-Hollywood import last year.

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” Sony’s hit sequel to an American film based on a board game, grossed $26 million in ticket sales for a tally of $66.5 million after 10 days.

Chinese romance comedy “Ex-File: The Return of the Exes” added an additional $18.1 million, bringing its 24-day total to $293.5 million. It now ranks as China’s fifth-highest grossing domestic film of all time.

20th Century Fox’s animation adventure “Ferdinand” opened with $9.4 million after three days.

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