The Chinese authorities probably thought with all the promotions they did around it, it would be a shoe-in. And it cost $94 million to make, the most expensive Chinese film ever. But alas, Warriors of the rainbow: Seediq Bale about Taiwan's aborigines and how they were forced to submit under Japanese rule in the 1930s.
Zhang's movie is centered around the Japanese invasion of Nanking, a pivotal incident in history that the Chinese refuse to let go of, much like the Jews and the Holocaust. And it dutifully raked in at the box office, making it the highest-grossing Chinese film last year.
It also starred Hollywood actor Christian Bale, but apparently reviews of his role were panned, particularly the dialogue which left him little to work with.
The film may have gotten worse press after Bale invited CNN to come with him to the outskirts of Beijing to try to meet blind lawyer activist Chen Guangcheng who is basically under house arrest even though he already finished his prison sentence. The video is here.
After an eight-hour drive, there plain-clothed men who guard Chen's compound and Bale tries to plead with them to see Chen.
"Why can I not visit this free man?" he asks repeatedly. The guards in the long green army coats shout, "Go away!"
CNN and the actor retreat to their vehicle, only to find that they are chased for 40 minutes by men in a gray van.
"What I really wanted to do was to meet this man, shake his hand and say what an inspiration he is," Bale said.
The incident got lots of foreign press which resulted in the Chinese government publicly rebuking the actor.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the footage should embarrass the Batman star, not the Chinese government.
Liu Weimin said: "[Bale] was not invited to fabricate news or shoot films in a certain village... I think if you want to make up news in China, you will not be welcome here."
OK -- so we know not to make up the news in China -- that's someone else's job...
In any event it clearly demonstrates while the government is keen to shine the spotlight on how others victimized China, the authorities still cannot face up to the injustices they impose on their own citizens.