Our documentary, in some sense, can be seen as an effort to preserve a dying history.”
For the first time, a documentary will reveal footage of two assassination attempts on the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping during his landmark 1979 visit to the United States.
The 94-minute documentary, Mr. Deng Goes to Washington, will hit theaters on the Chinese mainland on Friday. It is the first big-screen production chronicling Deng’s nineday visit about one month after China officially established diplomatic relations with the US.
With as much as 40 minutes of the footage purchased from the US at a cost of $250 per second, the film has an ensemble “cast” more famous than the stars of mostHollywood blockbusters.
The film, made last year, includes the then US president Jimmy Carter, thenUS national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and former US secretary of stateHenry Kissinger.
FuHongxing, the movie’s director, says convincing the politicians to participate in the movie was a tough job as they are all elderly people.
As a veteran filmmaker, the 52-year-old director is famous for a number of documentaries, including Zhou Enlai’s Diplomatic Career, based on the former Chinese premier. The film was the highestgrossing Chinese film of 1998.
Carter was 91 years old at the time of shooting, while Kissinger was 92. The crew also had to travel to a hospital inHouston to interviewformer US president George HerbertWalker Bush, who was 91 and in poor physical condition.
The crewmade an appointment to interview James Schlesinger, former US secretary of energy, who boosted the Sino-US Cooperation Agreement on Science and Technology in 1979. But Schlesinger, who agreed to take part in late 2013, died a few days before the crewflewto theUS.
“It was an urgent mission to compete with time. Our documentary, in some sense, can be seen as an effort to preserve a dying history,” Fu says.
Fu describes the film as being more like a “historical thriller” than a documentary — it features a dramatic storyline, weaving together the tour’s obstacles ranging from the weather, pro-Kuomintang adversaries to the “surprising” accidents.
“The political game captured in the film is much more thrilling and dangerous than most fictional espionage titles or action blockbusters,” he says.
“The nine-day visit marked a historical turning point in Sino-US relations, and rewrote the global geopolitics,” Fu adds.
The twoattempted assassinations include one by two radical journalists at the WhiteHouse when Carter met Deng, and the other by a Ku KluxKlanmember, whotried to pull something from his coat as he rushed toward Deng in Houston, but was intercepted by Paul Kelly, then a US Secret Service agent.
In some scenes with no historical videos, the movie uses animations to depict Deng, the first time a cartoon has been used to show the former Chinese leader on the big screen.
Producer Lyu Muzi says the animator has created 12 cartoon scenes, with one scene depicted in the traditional Chinese shadowpuppet animation.
“We’ve even sent the videos to Deng’s family and got a positive response from his daughter,” Lyu says.
Zhu Yuchen, a 24-year-old graduate student studying animation at Beijing Film Academy, is the artist behind the animated scenes.
He says he read many historical files, including the details of dishes and table decorations, to make the images close to reality.
Toshowthe influence of the historical visit, interviews are woven into the end of the movie from a dozen current celebrities, including Lenovo founder Liu Chuanzhi, real estate tycoon Pan Shiyi, former NBA star YaoMing and pianist Lang Lang.
“The film means a lot to me. It’s hard to imagine Sino-US relations today if the two countries hadn’t established official diplomatic relations,” says Lang. He adds thatWestern bias against Chinese artists has reduced in the past two decades, thanks to more communication after Deng’s historic visit. Contact the writer at email@example.com