Benny Chan’s

To hit cin­e­mas on Fri­day

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By XUFAN xufan@chi­

Benny Chan points to his glasses while talk­ing about his fas­ci­na­tion with mar­tial arts.

“As a child, I al­ways hid in­side a blan­ket and used a flash­light (at night) to read mar­tial arts books by Louis Cha,” Chan, 55, said at a re­cent me­dia in­ter­ac­tion in Bei­jing.

The veteran Hong Kong-based di­rec­tor’s lat­est feature, Call of He­roes, is a mar­tial arts film that shows a small group of peo­ple fight­ing a pow­er­ful vil­lain. The celebri­tys­tud­ded film will open in China and some parts of South­east Asia on Fri­day. Its re­lease dates forNorth Amer­ica and Europe have yet to be an­nounced.

Along­side Hong Kong ac­tion di­rec­torSam­moHung, the film’s cast in­cludes such stars as Louis Koo, Sean Lau Ching-wan, Ed­die Peng andWu Jing.

Chan­re­turns to his fa­vorite sub­ject with the feature de­spite the genre’s on­go­ing strug­gle in aChi­ne­se­mar­ket dom­i­nated by com­edy films. He shot to fame with A Mo­ment of Ro­mance (1990), a ro­man­tic ac­tion film, and re­ceived crit­i­cal ac­claim for­mostothers in the genre: Jackie Chan’s Who Am I? (1998) and the anti-drug film The White Storm (2013).

Call ofHeroes re­flects Chan’s long­time thoughts on jus­tice and power, he says.

Set in a pe­riod af­ter the fall of the Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911), the film nar­rates how the tran­quil­ity of a small fic­tion­al­tow­nis bro­ken­whena war­lord kills two peo­ple and a child.

But jus­tice isn’t served. If the mur­derer is ex­e­cuted, the lo­cals will be slaugh­tered by the war­lord’s army. If not, they’ll be haunted by their col­lec­tive con­science.

“The big­gest cri­sis in that place is not the in­tru­sion of a no­to­ri­ous crim­i­nal but the change of at­ti­tudes among the lo­cal peo­ple. They don’t trust one an­other any­more, which shows the ugly side of humanity,” the di­rec­tor says.

Only a few peo­ple — a wan­der­ing swords­man, played by Peng; a lo­cal sher­iff, played by Lau; and some oth­ers— rise to fight the young war­lord. It is Chan’s an­swer to the sit­u­a­tion, he says.

For the 200 mil­lion yuan ($30 mil­lion) film, a “town” was built in Shaox­ing, East China’s Zhe­jiang prov­ince. It cov­ered up to 20,000 square me­ters, an area that could ac­com­mo­date some 2,000 peo­ple dur­ing the shoot. Care was taken to have the props re­sem­ble items in his­tor­i­cal ac­counts, the di­rec­tor says.

The crew also put in place a drainage sys­tem as a so­lu­tion to the wet sea­son in Shaox­ing, where it rained most of the days dur­ing be­tween July and Au­gust last year.

In the film’s last se­quence, the “town” ex­plodes as a re­sult of the many fights.

“It took the crew five months to build the sets,” says Chan. “But we had to smash them as the story was de­vel­oped in that way.”

Chan is also con­sid­ered a de­mand­ing di­rec­tor.

Lau, who hadn’t acted in a mar­i­tal arts film in a long time, was per­suaded to lead Call of He­roes. He rig­or­ously trained to learn how to use a whip for one month and fre­quently hit him­self by ac­ci­dent.

Peng says he once shot a kick­ing scene more than 50 times to get it right.

For Chan, who be­gan his ca­reer as an as­sis­tant of di­rec­tor on film sets at the age of 18, life has been ex­cit­ing.

“Film­mak­ing is like run­ning in a marathon. If you love it, you will run and run.”

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