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Building bridges with films

By Xu Fan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-10 09:26
Actor Hu Jun plays the role of Xian Xinghai in the film The Composer. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Nearly five years after President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech to launch the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, a movie inspired by an anecdote he related then has taken shape and is scheduled to be out near the end of this year.

The upcoming biographical drama The Composer-the first Sino-Kazakh coproduction-is based on the life of musician Xian Xinghai.

A four-and-a-half-minute trailer of the film was released in the presence of Xi and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev at Great Hall of the People in Beijing on June 7.

Then, the two countries' top leaders also met some crew and cast members, including Chinese A-listers Hu Jun, Yuan Quan, and Kazakh actor Berik Aitzhanov, as well as Jonathan Shen, founder and CEO of the Beijing-based Shinework Pictures, and Serik Zhubandykov, senior vice-president of Kazakhfilm JSC, the two studios coproducing the film.

In the film, Hu plays Xian, actress Yuan plays Xian's wife Qian Yunling and Aitzhanov plays Bakhitzhan Baykadamov, a Kazakh composer and Xian's close friend.

According to the producers, the idea of the film came from Xi's speech made at Nazarbayev University on Sept 7, 2013.

Then, during his state visit to Kazakhstan, Xi told a story to explain why there is an avenue named after Xian in the country's largest city Almaty.

According to the story, at the start of Great Patriotic War in 1941, Xian was in the former Soviet Union to compose scores for a documentary titled Yan'an and the Eighth Route Army.

But the war then prevented him from getting home and he was stranded in Almaty where he received help from Baykadamov, a renowned Kazakh musician who harbored him in the home of one of his relatives.

During his stay in Almaty, Xian composed many works including Liberation of the Nation, Sacred War, and Red All Over the River.

He also created a symphony based on the Kazakh hero Amangeldy Imanov, who led people to revolt against the foreign invaders in the 1910s.

Meanwhile, Shen says that the movie is the company's first film in its bid to coproduce movies with countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

And beside The Composer, Shinework plans to produce the Sino-Russian Blades of Steel, and Tsunami, the first feature to be made by China and Indonesia.

Initial work on the two movies is on and filming schedules are yet to be finalized, says Shen.

The Composer began shooting in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, in June last year after more than three years of research.

Iris Wang, general manager of Shinework, says the filming lasted for around five and a half months, and the movie is now in its postproduction phase.

"The movie is set to open simultaneously in China and Kazakhstan by the end of this year," says Wang.

Speaking about why Hu-who is familiar to Chinese audience for his tough-man roles-was chosen to play the lead, Wang says Hu's fondness for playing piano and violin as well as his family musical background went in his favor.

Also, Xian's strength and character played a role in Hu getting the part, she says.

Explaining how Hu fitted the bill perfectly, she says: "Although Xian is a musician, he is also a passionate patriot who is devoted to the liberation and rise of China. And his musical works have encouraged generations of Chinese, such as the household Yellow River Cantata and On The Taihang Mountains.

"So, Hu's tough temperament is what we needed for the protagonist."

In the movie, Hu needed to speak a lot of Russian, and was trained by several tutors.

The script for the film is penned by Su Xiaowei, and the movie is directed by veteran filmmaker Xierzati Yahefu from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, whose signature films Genuine Love and Flower have received acclaim in a string of overseas festivals.

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