China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE -

C hi­nese di­rec­tor Fan Lixin found it chal­leng­ing to work with an­i­mals in Earth: One Amaz­ing Day.

Bri­tish di­rec­tors Richard Dale and Peter Webber and he have di­rected the nature film.

“They (the an­i­mals in the movie) are from re­mote ar­eas where it is dif­fi­cult to reach. But even af­ter you’ve gone there, it’s hard to find them,” Fan says in a re­cent in­ter­view in Bei­jing.

As the first Sino-UK film af­ter a co­pro­duc­tion treaty signed by the two coun­tries in 2015, the 100-minute film has been pro­duced by BBC Earth Films and SMG Pic­tures, a Shang­hai com­pany.

With a crew of some 100 from China and Bri­tain, the film took 142 days of shoot­ing and three years of edit­ing from more than 12,000 DVDs that cap­ture footage in the wild.

The film has stun­ning scenes, such as gi­raffes fight­ing for ter­ri­tory, mil­lions of mayflies over a river and baby igua­nas’ thrilling es­cape from snakes.

As the se­quel to BBC Earth Films’ 2007 hit doc­u­men­tary

Earth, the new film tracks the sun from the high­est moun­tains to the re­motest is­lands and ex­otic jun­gles over the course of a sin­gle day.

Nar­rated by Amer­i­can ac­tor Robert Red­ford, the film features 38 wild species from 22 coun­tries, in­clud­ing hum­ming­birds from the trop­i­cal forests of Ecuador to nar­whals in the Arc­tic wa­ters. China’s gi­ant pan­das, white-headed lan­gurs and red-crown cranes are in it, too.

Neil Nightin­gale, one of the pro­duc­ers, ex­plains the an­i­mal se­lec­tion.

“I think they each ful­fill a very spe­cific role in the film. The story is about 24 hours. We have the red-crown cranes at the very be­gin­ning, be­cause it (the scene) is a won­der­ful evo­ca­tion of dawn,” says Nightin­gale, who is also the cre­ative di­rec­tor of BBC Earth.

“Of course, we could not fea­ture China with­out the gi­ant panda. We were very lucky to film a mother and a cub. It’s a beau­ti­ful, very charming se­quence in the mid­dle of the morn­ing that re­lates back to bam­boo growth and the sun,” he adds.

But the big­gest sur­prise for him and his col­leagues was the white-headed lan­gur, an en­dan­gered an­i­mal that lives in South China’s Guangxi Zhuang au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

They are rarely known out­side, he says.

“They are such lovely mon­keys. They come down to the for­est to feed dur­ing the day, but in the evening — just like us — they are afraid of the dark. They are wor­ried about things that might come and eat them.”

The mon­keys climb back into their caves in the cliffs when night falls.

To film their move­ments, the crew flew around 200 drones over the area, some car­ry­ing long-lens cam­eras to keep dis­tance from the mon­keys so as not to frighten them.

An­other in­ter­est­ing mo­ment came dur­ing the film­ing of pan­das.

Fan says the pho­tog­ra­phers wore cos­tumes with panda exc­reta to “cheat” the cubs, which oth­er­wise would have gone far away from the cam­eras.

“China has an amaz­ing bio­di­ver­sity. The topic of en­dan­gered species in the coun­try is also im­por­tant,” says Fan.

The film’s Man­darin ver­sion is be­ing nar­rated by Hong Kong ac­tion hero Jackie Chan. Chi­nese-Amer­i­can nov­el­ist Yan Gel­ing has added lo­cal fla­vor to the script.

Chan, who voices a wildlife doc­u­men­tary for the first time in his ca­reer span­ning four decades, says he worked for hours on it, and al­most “per­formed an­i­mal roles” dur­ing record­ing ses­sions.

In a scene where a pen­guin trips on a rock af­ter an ex­haust­ing jour­ney to hunt fish, Chan says he added an “whoops” that was not writ­ten in the script he was read­ing.

“He be­came very en­gaged with it per­son­ally and emo­tion­ally,” Nightin­gale says of the Chi­nese ac­tor.

“The fun­ni­est mo­ment is the danc­ing bear. When Jackie first saw the footage, he started danc­ing … He comes across (in) the movie like your fa­vorite un­cle who is telling an amaz­ing story about the nat­u­ral world,” says Stephen McDonogh, an­other pro­ducer.

With the film (in Man­darin) ready to de­but in China on Fri­day, the coun­try will be­come the ear­li­est mar­ket for the the­ater re­lease of the doc­u­men­tary.

It may hit the United States or Bri­tain in the fall, but the dates have yet to be con­firmed, ac­cord­ing to the pro­duc­ers.

McDonogh says the suc­cess of Dis­ney’s nature film Born in

China has shown that “China has an ap­petite for this type of nat­u­ral his­tory films”. Di­rected by Lu Chuan, Born

in China earned more than 60 mil­lion yuan ($8.9 mil­lion) last year, mak­ing it the high­est-gross­ing doc­u­men­tary in China.

Fan echoes the view, say­ing he hopes more such qual­ity works will en­cour­age in­vestors to pro­duce doc­u­men­taries, a long­time un­der­es­ti­mated genre in the Chi­nese movie in­dus­try.

“Doc­u­men­taries can be en­ter­tain­ing even though they get con­tent from real life,” says Fan.

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