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Women generals to the rescue

[ 2012-12-26 14:25] 来源:中国日报网     字号 [] [] []  
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Imagine a cinema director who comes to China to make a film about a pillar of traditional Chinese culture, but whose only previous connection to the country was the ersatz Chinese food available in his native Tel Aviv, Israel.

Imagine taking a bunch of students and other people who never acted before and having the chutzpah to make this film without a single professional actor. Imagine even further that the film is about Peking Opera, not exactly most 21st century people's cup of tea.

It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but Dan Wolman's movie New Voice succeeds against all odds.

The film, in Chinese with English subtitles, was screened this month for the first time at Beijing's National Academy of Chinese Theater Arts, the country's premiere training ground for Peking Opera and the source of the film's neophyte actors. The academy and the embassy of Israel in Beijing are the film's co-producers.

New Voice is expected to be distributed widely in China, and to be shown at film festivals and cinemas around the world. It's a story within a story, centering on a contemporary multi-generational family of opera singers.

The family's leader has a voice problem just days before performing in the iconic opera The Women Generals of the Yang Family. As in the famous Song Dynasty-era (960-1279) opera, the women of the family step in to help save the day, and the performance.

Israel's new ambassador to China, Matan Vilnai, says: "The film is a good example of cooperation which is not achieved through diplomacy between leaders, but by everyday people who find their common ground through conversation and art."

How did Wolman come to China to make a film about a culture so alien to him?

"The academy had seen two of my films, and they asked me if I'd like to do something in connection with Chinese opera," he says. "I told them that I was completely ignorant about this genre and that the music sounds so foreign to me - but that I'd like to learn more before giving my answer."

After spending "hour after hour" reviewing material about 20 Chinese operas the academy sent to him, Wolman was touched by The Women Generals of the Yang Family. "It really resonated with me like an ancient Greek myth."

Then he teamed up with academy staff to come up with the story for New Voices.

Wolman wasn't too worried about using amateur actors.

"We had a very low budget so I took teachers and students themselves and it was great to give these young people a chance to show their skills," he says, noting that amateurs got a shot at producing the film's posters and music, too.

New Voice addresses the issue that the audience for Peking Opera is mostly elderly and that few young people are interested. Wolman wonders whether 10-day opera festivals - patterned after film festivals like at Cannes and Berlin - could have a rejuvenating effect.

"I know that it's considered heresy but I'd also have a section for experimental opera. My film addresses this issue. They do Shakespeare in modern clothing and settings to attract a broader audience. Why not showcase and reward innovation, the lifeblood of continuing success?"

The author, Harvey Dzodin, is a senior adviser to Tsinghua University and former director and vice-president of ABC Television in New York.


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(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)