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Shanghai Fortress

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Matthew Hurwitz
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Shanghai Fortress

The film Shanghai Fortress is a Chinese film that follows a group of friends as they and the Chinese military attempt to fight off an alien invasion and take a last stand for the world in Shanghai. The film follows a typical "aliens threaten the world" movie narrative, with lots of  drama and action. In many ways, it's a Chinese version of "Battle: Los Angeles", or the Independence Day movies. And that's precisely what makes this movie interesting. Seeing a familiary genre from a different perspective was an interesting way to look at how a country sees itself and it's place in the world, and the role of movies in reinforcing that vision, through a type of movie that most people don't analyze very critically.

I think this analysis would work really well in the classroom, especially in a unit on soft power and "cultural Imperialism", or a unit on modern politics and the Post Cold War period. Most students are very familiar with action movies, and don't even think about the fact that all of those movies center on American cities, American fighters, and ultimately, American heroism, sacrifice and ingeniuity to defeat whatever the threat to the world is. Having students look at a clip of this movie, and then a clip of an Avengers movie or other action movie, and compare who has power, who is put front and center, and who is in charge of saving the day would be a good way of analyzing the ways in which popular culture both reflect who has power, and project power around the world. You could even draw in movies like "Black Panther" or "Captain Marvel", looking at how those films, as well as films like "Shanghai Fortress" are all important ways for different voices and cultural perspectives to be seen and experienced, even within countries.  I would probably follow up a viewing of this film, either on it's own or with a similar American film, with an essay prompt along the lines of: "Analyze the ways in which fictional films reflect real world politics" or "Analyze a particular time period or historical event from multiple perspectives, using films from two different countries as evidence"