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Mr. Lee found “Aftershock’s” criticism of contemporary Chinese politics “impressive,” but others found some of the film’s content troubling. The film doesn’t explore the Maoist government’s lack of infrastructure at the time of the 1976 earthquake, nor does it mention China’s refusal to accept foreign aid at the time.

Mr. Lee said directors such as Mr. Woo, who have worked within the Hollywood system to make movies like “Face/Off” and “Broken Arrow,” are eager to bring what they’ve learned back home. Last year, Mr. Woo released a traditional period sword epic, “Red Cliff,” that he made in mainland China to U.S. filmgoers, though, unlike “Aftershock,” it showed mostly in U.S. art houses.

Mr. Woo “is trying to train the Chinese to use the latest computer graphics to make dramatic war scenes,” as they’re done in the U.S., Mr. Lee said. “It makes it easier for American audiences to accept good, quality Chinese movies.”

Andrew Entzminger contributed to this report.