VIEWS OF THE GRASSLAND “M

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

aybe I’m no better than o t h e r di­rec­tors in many­ways, but I was born and raised in a herders’ fam­ily, and as a herder, I knowhowto deal with an­i­mals in the Mon­go­lian grass­lands, and that is very im­por­tant in this se­ries,” says Bayaneruul, direc­tor of In the Steppes, a 20-episode TV drama in Mon­go­lian, which goes on air in Au­gust.

The drama, which tells the story of the changes in the lives of herders in the In­ner Mongolia au­ton­o­mous re­gion over the last 70 years, will be broad­cast to mark the 70th an­niver­sary of the found­ing of the au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

Bayaneruul, 55, is an award­win­ning ac­tor and direc­tor. His per­for­mance was well re­ceived in the movie The Sor­row of Brook Steppe in 1996. He is es­pe­cially pop­u­lar for his anti-hero roles in cos­tume, mar­tial arts dra­mas such as Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils and Re­turn of the Con­dor He­roes.

His di­rec­to­rial ven­tures Sicheng­hangru (2009) and Nor­j­maa (2014) won awards at home and abroad.

The pro­duc­tion crew and cast of In the Steppes are mainly com­posed of peo­ple ofMon­gol eth­nic­ity. All the ac­tors and ac­tresses grew up in the steppes and know how to raise sheep, horses, camels, goats and cat­tle.

“We treat an­i­mals as fam­ily mem­bers,” Bayaneruul says. “We will be mocked if we are not pro­fes­sional enough.”

Bayaneruul will fo­cus on the changes in the past four decades start­ing from the time of China’s re­form and openingup in the late 1970s.

In the ’ 80s, herders in In­ner Mongolia lived a no­madic life in yurts, but grad­u­ally set­tled down and to­day live in brick houses.

“We want to present the life that re­ally ex­ists, to show how har­mo­niously our tra­di­tional no­madic life got along with mod­ern­iza­tion,” he says, “and to show peo­ple’s lives, es­pe­cially of the women there.”

“Film­ing is an art form to rep­re­sent truth, good­ness and beauty. All ofmy works are try­ing to achieve this goal.”

Bayaneruul started to shoot the se­ries in July and ex­pects to fin­ish by May 15. It will show the beau­ti­ful scenery in the In­ner Mon­go­lian grass­lands through the four sea­sons, and will in­clude views of hard­ships such as liv­ing un­der 40 C in sum­mer.

The direc­tor says he used to wake up at 4 amto start shoot­ing an hour later but had to stop film­ing at 11am­be­cause it would get too hot.

In win­ter, the tem­per­a­ture can drop to -40 C and thick snow can re­duce vis­i­bil­ity to the point that even two peo­ple stand­ing close to one an­other might not be able to see each other. In worse sit­u­a­tions, when the wind is fierce, the herders may lose sight of their sheep.

Since shoot­ing needed to be done just over a few months and the an­i­mals couldn’t be ex­pected to fol­low hu­man in­struc­tions, Bayaneruul says he adopted a doc­u­men­tary style to shoot the TV drama. All the shots re­lated to an­i­mals are real footage to be edited later.

“I re­gard it a re­spon­si­bil­ity to present the real life in our steppes. Back in the ’80s, the herders had only a few kinds of an­i­mals, but now they have many. And the life and folk cus­toms across the steppes vary. Fu­ner­als in dif­fer­ent districts are dif­fer­ent from each other. So if we make mis­takes in such de­tails, it will be a scan­dal,” he says.

An­other prob­lem is the set­ting. In the 1980s, peo­ple lived in yurts, then they set­tled down liv­ing in mud houses, and later con­crete houses.

“But now you can­not find a mud house any­where and we had no time to build one, sowe had to re­duce shoot­ings re­lated to such build­ings.”

Bayaneruul says the chal­lenges he faced has turned his hair gray. He slept for only two hours a day while shoot­ing.

The direc­tor was born in Er­dos, and his fam­ily used to live a no­madic life. Even­tu­ally, he went to high school in a city, but dur­ing his hol­i­days he would re­turn to the grass­lands to look af­ter the an­i­mals. He fell in love with films in his young days af­ter watch­ing them at an open-air theater in Er­dos dur­ing the sum­mer.

Af­ter high school he went to Shang­hai Theater Academy to study theater and per­for­mance. In 1999, he com­pleted his stud­ies in film di­rec­tion from Bei­jing Film Academy.

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