Composer to show Xian Xinghai’s tough Soviet years
In Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, a street is named after Chinese composer Xian Xinghai.
The musician, known for the piece Yellow River Cantata, was stranded there after a pro-Kuomintang warlord blocked his return to China. He died in Moscow in 1945.
Jonathan Shen, founder of Shine work Pictures, a Beijingbased studio that works on coproductions with foreign companies, tells China Daily that his company has teamed up with Kazakhstan filmmakers to make a biopic on Xian called Composer.
Shen’s knowledge of his subject came from a speech delivered by President Xi Jinping during his visit to Kazakhstan in 2013.
Shen says he regards it his responsibility to let people know about Xian’s story.
Xian was sent by the Communist Party of China to the former Soviet Union to compose scores for a documentary titled Yan’an and the Eighth Route Army, which was about the CPC revolutionary base fighting the Japanese invasion of China.
To cover his real identity in Kazakhstan, the musician used an alias. So when he was harbored by a local musician, the latter didn’t know whom he had rescued from starvation. During that time, Xian composed several famous musical works.
“A key to international coproductions is to tell a story that appeals to different markets,” says Shen, 51.
Shen began his television career in 2000 when he founded World Film Report, a popular weekly program aired on movie channel CCTV 6. Over the past 16 years, the show has produced around 2,000 episodes, featuring interviews with more than 3,000 filmmakers in some 80 countries across the world.
“In a sense, we’ve found a niche. Big studios mainly focus on domestic markets, and small firms struggle with cultural and linguistic barriers when collaborating with foreigners,” he says.
Shen says that Chinese filmmakers should go abroad to seek more opportunities.
Hollywood gets most of its revenue from overseas markets, but China — despite being the world’s second-largest movie market — obtains almost all its movie industry’s revenue from domestic box-office receipts, he says.
At the recently concluded 3rd Xi’an Silk Road International Film Festival, Shinework Pictures released a plan of its upcoming co-productions.
For Composer, which is still having its script revised, the plan is to start filming by the end of this year. It will be released next year. Several A-listers are in negotiations to star in the movie.
Another title that Shen’s company is working on is the live-action feature Monkey Master, a superhero rooted in Chinese and Indian myths. Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee and his Pow! Entertainment are now working on the protagonist’s role and sets, according to Daljit Parmar, vice-president of international coproductions for Shinework.
“Lee has made so many globally known characters from Spider-Man to Iron Man, but those characters were really developed for the North American market,” says Parmar.
“We want a homegrown superhero with cultural liaison and appeal to the Chinese. Monkey Master will be the first Chinese superhero to be internationally developed for the domestic market.”
Highlights of Shinework’s upcoming coproductions also have the action comedy Way to Shaolin, the first Sino-Iranian production inspired by the true story of the Iranian martial arts teacher Masoud Jafari.
Recalling his surprise to find Iranian youngsters interested in Chinese action films, Shen says, he hopes the movie can help Chinese filmmakers enter into the Iranian market.
Kung Fu Yoga, starring Jackie Chan, is a Sino-Indian production that was initially developed by Shinework. Shen says the directorial work of Stanley Tong will be released during the Spring Festival in 2017.
A wax sculpture of composer Xian Xinghai is displayed at the National Museum of China in Beijing.
Jonathan Shen, filmmaker.