``China Cry,' the first movie produced by the newly formed TBN Films, is based on the experiences of Chinese-American evangelist Nora Lam, who faced political repression in communist China.
Produced by Paul F. Crouch, president of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, it's the first full-length motion picture made by a religious organization since Billy Graham's Worldwide Pictures collapsed in 1988.Moviegoers who place more emphasis on subject than on script or acting are likely to find ``China Cry' enjoyable and inspiring. It's a professional film with beautiful color photography by David Worth (``Bronco Billy') and effective music by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn. James F. Collier (``The Prodigal') is screenwriter and director.
The story begins in Shanghai in December 1941, when Sung Neng Yee (as she was called then) is 9. When the Japanese invade the city, she and her adoptive parents, Dr. H.T. and Evelyn Tak Bun Sung, flee to Chungking.
When the war ends, they return to Shanghai, and Neng Yee enters the Huatung Political Science and Law College of Soochow University. In 1953, she receives a law degree and begins teaching teach law and history at the college.
China is now under the strict control of Mao Tse Tung. Neng Yee's parents appear to be singled out for special treatment. Their car is confiscated, and then her father, a prominent physician, is removed from his position and forced to scrub floors at the hospital.
When Neng Yee questions such action, she attracts the attention of Col. Cheng, a young, ruthless officer who orders her to be brought in for questioning.
Marriage has added to her problems. While a student, she meets and falls in love with Cheng Lee, a fellow student from Hong Kong. The two marry, and soon she is pregnant.
Col. Cheng probes into Neng Yee's past, trying to determine if she holds beliefs considered dangerous to the totalitarian state. Cheng Lee is also questioned as the authorities play husband and wife against each other.
Some of the most famous Asian-American and Eurasian actors appear in the film.
Julia Nickson-Soul (``Noble House'), the daughter of a Chinese mother and a British father and wife of actor David Soul, plays Neng Yee. Russell Wong (``Eat A Bowl of Tea') is Cheng Lee. One of seven children born to a Chinese father and a Dutch mother, Wong grew up in Albany, N.Y., and began his career as a ballet dancer.
Two veteran players appear as Neng Yee's parents. James Shigeta (``The Flower Drum Song') is Dr. Sung, and France Nuyen (``A Girl Named Tamiko,' ``St. Elsewhere') is Mrs. Sung.
One of the most critical episodes in ``China Cry' takes place one night when, refusing to denounce her religion, Neng Yee is condemned to death. A firing squad assembles in the courtyard. When the guns are aimed, an unearthly light fills the space and, though the shots whistle around Neng Yee, she is unharmed.
That climactic moment encapsulates Crouch's reasons for getting into film production.
``With 'China Cry,' ' Crouch wrote in a recent Trinity newsletter, ``a whole new door is opening up to this Army of the Lord: theater doors. And into this dark corner of our world we are going to shine the light of the Gospel!'
Crouch's decision to become a film producer was prompted by his experience with Martin Scorsese's controversial film, ``The Last Temptation of Christ.' In August 1988, Crouch organized a rally of 25,000 people to protest Scorsese's film.
Now, he's out to appeal to ``that large segment of the population that has stopped going to the movies.'
``I believe I'm making an investment in the future of our young people,' he says. ``It's important for the younger generation. . . to understand that miracles do happen in modern times.'