Wednesday, March 25, 2009

News from Beijing

ALL FOR LIBERTY made its world premiere on Friday March 20 at Club Obiwan. The ultra hip film cafe, on the northside of Beijing, sits next to a lake under the gaze of a centuries old prince's palace. Like much of this crazy capital, this setting is a wild clash between the ultra new and the very old; the contrast between the super trendy hipsters partying down at the bar and the calm stately lakeside setting could not be more striking.

I felt decidedly uneasy before the film began. The audience seemed alert but cool and a number of people filed in late (if you think you have had traffic delays where you live, try travelling at rush hour in Beijing, a city of 26 million). To my relief, the audience really got engaged in the story and when the British surrendered Fort Orangeburg, several people cheered and when the film ended, the crowd erupted in enthusiastic applause. That one moment made the trip (nineteen hours flight time) well worth it!

After the screening, the audience peppered me with many questions about the film production and the historical story. Half the crowd did not speak English so Peter Sallade, the Beijing Festival director and audience members helped with translating back and forth. Several students asked if we could bring AFL to screen at their university later this spring; other possibilities in China were also discussed. All in all, a happy start to this new phase for our project.

The next evening, AFL screened at CNEX, a big, beautiful creative complex on the city's southeast side. The former warehouse complex features studios, galleries and offices for artists, filmmakers and designers, an elegant restaurant, a hip bar and an airy comfortable screening room all grouped around a striking two story inner courtyard.

This crowd was larger but like the first very engaged with the film; the followup Q & A was lively. Several questions went to the research into the original true story. A number of audience members said they had no idea that America had such "tropical" settings; most of what they see of the US is cold weather northern or dry California scenes. Again, students requested to have the film screen at their universities and several audience members thanked me for showing them a side of America they had never seen before. "We're used to seeing flashy American movies" one said "this one had heart and real meaning. Thank you for bringing this here."

3 comments:

  1. Oh, I see, this is how I comment. Sounds like the premiere was very solid. I must say that I agree with the students. My first and ongoing impressions are that the film is sincere, exploring our "Revolutionary" history in an original and heartfelt way. It lurches a bit, but I don't mind. As I watch, I feel like I'm on this expedition with the filmmakers, discovering not only relatively unknown national heroes, but simultaneously discovering the art of filming history. A very engaging process of interweaving the past with the present without artifice. Simple and ultimately very satisfying. And a premiere in Beijing! Who woulda thought! Hoka hey, Michael

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  2. When can the general public expect to see the film???

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  3. "When can the general public expect to see the film???"

    Good question but we don't have clear answers yet. This is what I can tell you:

    Film distribution takes a long time to set up. We are in preliminary discussion about bookings in movie theatres perhaps as early as this summer. We are also looking into television. We plan to release to DVD sometime later this year(2009).

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