It is 1935, and everyone in Foshan, China lives a wonderful life. Martial arts schools are everywhere, and Foshan has some of the best. But one master, Ip Man, does not teach although he is the best and most skilled of all. As he proves in many duels.
But then the Japanese invade, bringing death, violence, and hunger with them. Ip man is forced to work shoveling coal. But when he discovers the Japanese are organising fights, and the result of one is a friend beaten to death he must act. For he is a Chinese man.
This is very much a propaganda film. Evil Japanese invaders are shown the error of their way and defeated by the honorable Chinese martial artists.
And yes, I’m sure that there were many horrors during the Japanese occupation, and there are still many many lingering emotions and traumas. But this film is very simplistic in its outlook. It also takes a lot of liberties with the truth, because Ip Man was a real historical figure. His son was involved in making this film.
I can’t be too hard on its propaganda message though because it was quite an engaging martial arts biopic. You can’t take it too seriously as a regards history, but it is a great bit of myth-building.