Direc­tor’s lens fo­cuses on lessons of his­tory

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By XU FAN xu­fan@chi­nadaily.com.cn Great Things. Great Things Ro­mance of the Three King­doms Drawing Sword, Great Things My Un­cle Zhou En­lai, The Fight of Chang­sha, The Sword and the Flag in the Fog,

Direc­tor Chen Maolin planned to stay in Bei­jing for around three weeks to su­per­vise post-pro­duc­tion of his lat­est fea­ture-length film,

How­ever, Chen — from Shan­dong prov­ince — was forced to leave merely five days after he ar­rived in the Chi­nese cap­i­tal on June 7.

After read­ing the news that Xin­fadi — the city’s largest whole­sale mar­ket for agri­cul­tural and seafood prod­ucts — was linked to a new clus­ter of COVID-19 cases, Chen quickly de­cided to pur­chase a train ticket to re­turn to Qing­dao.

Chen had lived in a neigh­bor­hood near the Xin­fadi mar­ket for a pe­riod after he grad­u­ated as a lit­er­a­ture ma­jor from Bei­jing Film Acad­emy in 2012. “It is a sprawl­ing mar­ket that is very densely pop­u­lated, so I could imag­ine how se­ri­ous the sit­u­a­tion might be­come,” he says.

Now re­ly­ing on the in­ter­net to re­motely guide the Bei­jing film edi­tors, Chen says he has kept a close eye on the COVID-19 news, and feels in­spired by Bei­jing’s swift re­sponse and its all-out ef­fort to com­bat the pan­demic.

Un­like some of his fel­low film­mak­ers, Chen — who was born in the 1990s — says he has long been in­ter­ested in adapt­ing real life events for screen pro­duc­tions which re­flect the coun­try’s developmen­t or look back at the his­tory of the Com­mu­nist Party of China.

is a per­fect ex­am­ple. A high­lighted project backed by An­hui pro­vin­cial govern­ment to mark China’ s com­mit­ment to build­ing a mod­er­ately pros­per­ous so­ci­ety in all re­spects, the film turns the lens to the grass­roots ef­forts of cadres to help lo­cals es­cape poverty.

Star­ring vet­eran ac­tor Zhang Guang­bei, known for hits such as

and re­counts a sim­ple yet heart­warm­ing story.

A stub­born vil­lager, por­trayed by Zhang, is re­luc­tant to be re­lo­cated from his de­crepit home on Da­bie Moun­tain to a more con­ve­nient neigh­bor­hood near the foot of the moun­tain, as a part of lo­cal govern­ment’s ef­fort to al­le­vi­ate poverty. Thanks to a per­sis­tent and pa­tient of­fi­cial, he is per­suaded to move, un­rav­el­ing a se­cret that has been hid­den for more than seven decades.

The fe­male lead is played by Yun Lan, a debu­tant ac­tress who was se­lected from more than 20 can­di­dates.

The movie was sched­uled to start shoot­ing in early Fe­bru­ary, but was post­poned un­til April due to the COVID-19 out­break in Hubei prov­ince.

As some ar­eas in China had re­ported new coro­n­avirus cases in April, Chen re­calls he and his crew felt a bit ner­vous on their flight from Qing­dao to He­fei, the cap­i­tal of An­hui prov­ince.

“We shot the movie in Yuexi town in the city of An­qing, just one-and-a-half hour’s drive from Wuhan (the hard­est-hit city in China),” re­calls Chen.

Through in­ter­views with lo­cal el­derly vil­lagers, Chen came to learn that they used to trek for an en­tire day, climb­ing over hills, to reach the near­est town. “Now the town has com­pletely got rid of poverty. With a con­crete road ac­ces­si­ble to all house­holds, it takes just around 20 min­utes to drive there,” he notes.

Chen has earned a rep­u­ta­tion in show­biz cir­cles by serv­ing as one of the creators be­hind the bi­o­graph­i­cal TV se­ries which chron­i­cles Zhou, New China’s first premier who died in 1976.

Later, he ac­cu­mu­lated more recog­ni­tion through di­rect­ing the hit TV se­ries about the milestone bat­tle dur­ing the War of Re­sis­tance against Ja­panese Ag­gres­sion (1931-45), and the war ro­mance film

Things.

Great

set dur­ing the eve of the lib­er­a­tion of Bei­jing in 1949.

“I’ve learned a lot about how mod­ern China has been shaped and the rev­o­lu­tion­ary his­tory of the Com­mu­nist Party through re­search for these flicks,” says Chen.

“So per­son­ally, film­mak­ing is a very in­ter­est­ing job that not only helps me to travel to a lot of places, but also en­riches my knowl­edge.”

RAN MENGJUN / FOR CHINA DAILY

A field, bathed in laser light with a wa­ter-sprin­kler sys­tem, pro­vides a per­fect play­ground for chil­dren in Nan­bin Park, Wanzhou district, Chongqing, as evening falls on June 25. The park, after a gen­eral up­grade with re­vamped leisure ar­eas, has be­come a haven for lo­cal res­i­dents to es­cape the in­tense sum­mer heat. On­line

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Top: Vet­eran ac­tor Zhang Guang­bei (right) and ac­tress Yun Lan star in the film Above: One scene fea­tures lo­cal vil­lagers har­vest­ing tea. Left: Direc­tor Chen Maolin (left) on the film set in An­hui prov­ince.

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