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China Daily

Focus> Life & Art> Content
Thursday, April 11, 2019, 12:00
A change of scene
By Xu Fan
Thursday, April 11, 2019, 12:00 By Xu Fan

Still images and a poster of The Composer, the first Sino-Kazakh production starring Hu Jun as musician Xian Xinghai. (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY)

The Composer, the first Sino-Kazakh production depicting the final years of Chinese musician Xian Xinghai, is set to open the 9th Beijing International Film Festival on Saturday.

"The audience will get a sense of the indomitable spirit of the Chinese people and their attachment to the homeland. The audience will also feel the profound historical friendship between the Chinese and Kazakh people."

Wang Zhi, deputy secretary-general of the 9th Beijing International Film Festival

As one of the most recognized movie events in China, the festival-which will be held through April 20-recently announced 15 nominated films, including The Composer, which will contend for the festival's top honor, the Tiantan Award.

Inspired by a speech made by President Xi Jinping during his visit to Kazakhstan in 2013, the film looks back at the life of Xian, a musician who was once a household name and best known for his epic work, Yellow River Cantata.

When the Great Patriotic War (the Soviet Union's defensive war against the invasion of Nazi Germany) broke out in 1941, Xian-who was assigned by the Communist Party of China to work in Moscow-found himself stranded in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan.

With the help of Kazakh musician Bakhytzhan Baikadamov and his family, Xian spent his final years living out the war in Kazakhstan, where he concentrated on writing music. In early 1945, the musician who was suffering from multiple diseases was sent back to Moscow, where he died in a local hospital on Oct 30 the same year.

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"From the film, the audience will get a sense of the indomitable spirit of the Chinese people and their attachment to the homeland. The audience will also feel the profound historical friendship between the Chinese and Kazakh people," says Wang Zhi, deputy secretary-general of the festival's organizing committee.

Jonathan Shen, the producer of The Composer, reveals that the crew spent five months shooting scenes in China, Russia and Kazakhstan, and how the team used many special effects to re-create the wartime sequences.

Saturday, the festival's opening day, marks the 80th anniversary of the debut performance of Yellow River Cantata in Yan'an, the headquarters of the Red Army after the Long March which lasted from 1934 to 1936.

"We hope the film will comfort the soul of Xian," says Shen, who is also the founder and CEO of Beijing-based Shinework Pictures.

Shen says he hopes The Composer, which was jointly financed by Kazakhstan, will become a commercial success and encourage more foreign studios to produce films with China. The film is scheduled to go on general release in China and Kazakhstan in May.

Yuan Quan as Xian's wife, which will be screened as the opening film at the 9th Beijing International Film Festival on Saturday. (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY)

As well as The Composer, two other domestic films have been nominated for a Tiantan Award-actor-director Chen Jianbin's new comedy drama The Eleventh Chapter, and the sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth.

After drawing in box-office receipts totaling a whopping 4.6 billion yuan (US$685 million)-or 24 percent of Chinese box-office takings during the first quarter-The Wandering Earth is now regarded as a game-changer for its role in reviving the fortunes of the Chinese sci-fi genre.

As the longest film among all the nominated movies, Turkish master Nuri Bilge Ceylan's 188-minute The Wild Pear Tree will be screened for the first time in China. A Fortunate Man, the latest directorial epic by Danish auteur Bille August, is also a highly anticipated entry.

The other nominated films are Another World (Japan), Ben is Back (United States), Happier Times, Grump (Finland), Here (Iran), Sunset (Hungary, France), Tehran: City of Love (Britain, Iran and the Netherlands), The Keeper (Germany, Britain), The Unorthodox (Israel), Fear (India), and The Waiter (Greece).

All 15 films were selected from 775 aspiring nominations from across 85 countries and regions worldwide, a noticeable rise from the pool of 659 films from the 71 nations and regions last year.

Helmed by US director Rob Minkoff as president, the jury panel consists of six other members: Chilean director Silvio Gayoqi, Chinese director Cao Baoping, Russian director Sergei De Wattsvoy, Hong Kong actress Carina Lau, Iranian director Majid Majidi and British director Simon West.

Starring Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma, the Bollywood movie Zero will be screened as the closing film of the festival.

While the race for the awards is attracting insiders, a special segment titled Film in Panorama will screen 261 new and classic films in 30 theaters over 15 days, providing a visual feast for film fans in the capital.

READ MORE: 8th Beijing Intl Film Festival jury includes Wong Kar-wai

Zhang Xiaoguang, deputy head of the China Film Archive, says the segment has been especially created to showcase the best films produced by countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Several renowned filmmakers are also scheduled to hold audience discussions after screening their movies at the festival.

For instance, Iranian auteur Majidi will discuss his drama Beyond the Clouds with local audience members, and French actress Sophie Marceau will visit Beijing to attend the screening of her directorial drama Mrs Mills, which she also stars in.

Contact the writer at xufan@chinadaily.com.cn

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