Chi­nese fan­tasy film gets big dose ofHol­ly­wood sparkle

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - ByWANG KAIHAO in Hangzhou wangkai­hao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

What can one ex­pect when three Os­car win­ners join hands for a Chi­nese film? Per­haps, a com­pany in Hangzhou, the cap­i­tal of East China’s Zhe­jiang prov­ince, has the an­swer.

Film Car­ni­val, which last year moved from fi­nanc­ing to film­mak­ing, an­nounced last week that its first fea­ture film has brought some of the peo­ple be­hind Mid­dle-earth on board.

Jim Ry­giel, the vis­ual ef­fects su­per­vi­sor of The Lord of the Rings tril­ogy, and Ethan van der Ryn, who was in charge of sound edit­ing in the sec­ond in­stall­ment of the tril­ogy, Two Tow­ers, will lead the vis­ual ef­fects and sound edit­ing teams, re­spec­tively, for Film Car­ni­val’s up­com­ing fan­tasy com­edy Nezha.

Nezha is based on the le­gends sur­round­ing a Chi­nese folk de­ity by the same name.

The film, which is sched­uled for re­lease in 2017, features A-list ac­tor Zhang Fengyi and Malaysian-Chi­nese ac­tress Michelle Yeoh. It is di­rected by Jef­frey Lau, well known for his film A Chi­nese Odyssey.

The Lord of the Rings films that Ry­giel and Van der Ryn worked won Os­cars, and Van der Ryn won an­other Os­car for King Kong (2005) in ad­di­tion to nom­i­na­tions for the Trans­form­ers se­ries and Argo (2012).

Nev­er­the­less, the in­dus­try vet­er­ans say that the Hangzhou firm’s of­fer was a chal­lenge for them.

“I had not heard of the Nezha story be­fore I got the script,” says Ry­giel. “I am grate­ful tomy Chi­nese col­leagues in the art de­part­ment who helped me.”

Van der Ryn says that work­ing on Chi­nese films is a good way to learn Chi­nese cul­ture and history. He re­cently did sound edit­ing for a Chi­nese film on the Chongqing Bomb­ing, an atroc­ity com­mit­ted by Ja­pan dur­ing World War II, which is not well known in theWest.

“I will use sound to show dark­ness and light, loud­ness and quiet­ness (in Nezha),” he says.

Com­pared to them, how­ever, Gabriella Cris­tiani, an Ital­ian film editor who won an Os­car for The Last Em­peror (1987), seemed more pre­pared when join­ing the Nezha pro­duc­tion team.

Re­call­ing her work on the film on Puyi, the last Chi­nese monarch, Cris­tiani, who once stud­ied Tao­ism, says: “When I was edit­ing the film images then, I felt like I was mak­ing a sculp­ture.

“You have to bring emo­tion and dy­namism to your work. And, I think we are now pre­pared to pro­duce the most ex­quis­ite scenes from China.”

Though many Chi­nese film stu­dios have worked with Hol­ly­wood in re­cent years, the Hol­ly­wood pro­fes­sion­als work­ing on Nezha sounded a note of cau­tion.

“Some peo­ple (in Hol­ly­wood) get a lit­tle ner­vous about this (sit­u­a­tion) and don’t ac­cept and em­brace it,” says Stephen Cas­tor, a Hol­ly­wood vet­eran of mo­tion-cap­ture tech­nol­ogy, who is the post­pro­duc­tion pro­ducer of Nezha. “But the col­lab­o­ra­tion can pro­duce op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Cas­tor says China now has more tal­ent and advanced tech­nol­ogy for cin­ema, but he also cau­tions the Chi­nese in­dus­try to learn from Hol­ly­wood’s mis­takes and not to waste money.

“It’s im­por­tant to learn how to plan prop­erlyan­d­ef­fi­ciently, and­not to go for too large a crew,” he says.

Ry­giel also tells China Daily that film tech­nol­ogy should serve the sto­ry­telling part.

“When we use the footage and tell a story, it has to be a com­pelling story,” he says.

“I al­ways hope that I can do as lit­tle work as pos­si­ble, be­cause the best way to tell a story is to make it as real as pos­si­ble, rather than mak­ing ev­ery­thing blow up.”

Prob­a­bly, this is why Film Car­ni­val does not want to make its films an ex­trav­a­ganza of daz­zling vis­ual ef­fects, though its first three films are all fan­tasy fare.

“Cre­ative ef­forts will be made, and all of them are to take tra­di­tional Chi­nese sto­ries abroad,” saysHuang Xiaofeng, vice-pres­i­dent of Film Car­ni­val.

“The in­tro­duc­tion of Hol­ly­wood tech­nol­ogy is one chan­nel, but it needs many more ways.”

Sep­a­rately, the com­pany has signed Kim Ki-duk, an art-house film guru from South Korea, for the up­com­ing film Who Is God?

Zapruder, who came to Dal­las for the an­niver­sary of the as­sas­si­na­tion to dis­cuss her book on the film, Twenty-Six Sec­onds, says her fam­ily had al­ways been guided by her grand­fa­ther’s wishes to main­tain the in­tegrity of its deeply dis­turb­ing con­tents.

Abra­ham Zapruder sold an orig­i­nal copy and the rights to Life mag­a­zine for $150,000 to help tell the story of that fate­ful day in Dal­las.

The mag­a­zine pub­lished sev­eral frames of the film days af­ter the as­sas­si­na­tion. It did not sur­face again publicly un­til a ver­sion ap­peared on Ger­aldo Rivera’s ABC-TV show, Good Night Amer­ica in 1975.

Abra­ham Zapruder tes­ti­fied be­fore theUS gov­ern­ment’sWar­ren Com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­gat­ing the as­sas­si­na­tion.

The com­mis­sion con­cluded that a lone gun­man, Lee Har­vey Oswald, killed the pres­i­dent and wounded Texas Gover­nor John Con­nally. Zapruder died in 1970.

Film rights re­turned to the fam­ily in 1978 and Zapruder says she watched her fa­ther jug­gle the de­mands for pub­lic dis­clo­sure with her grand­fa­ther’s wishes “to do good with it”, she says.

In 1999, the gov­ern­ment paid the fam­ily $16 mil­lion plus in­ter­est for the orig­i­nal ver­sion of the film.

“He said he would have been happy to have never seen it again,” Alexandra Zapruder says of her grand­fa­ther.

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