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Fifth generation Chinese filmmaker He Ping brings the warriors of the Tang Dynasty alive in his Oscar-considered film.
Warriors of Heaven and Earth
Running Time: 121 minutes
Producer: Yan Yiyun, Wang Zhongjun
Director: He Ping
Writer: He Ping, Zhang Rui
Art Director: Yang Gang
Cinematographer: Zhao Fei
Costume Designer: Teng Jie
Editor: Kong Jinglei
Sound Mixer: Andrew Neil
Music Composer: A.R. Rahman
Cast: Jiang Wen, Nakai Kiichi, Wang Xueqi, Zhao Wei
Production Company: Xian Film Studio Corp.
Premiere Date: September 23, 2003
Representing China at this year’s Academy Awards will be He Ping’s Warriors of Heaven and Earth (Tian Di Ying Xiong). Set in the Gobi Desert during the Tang dynasty, the 121-minute film tells the story of two warriors, Lieutenant Li (Jiang Wen) and Japanese emissary Lai Xi (Nakai Kiichi). Lai Xi wills to return to Japan but can only do so if he captures and executes Lieutenant Li. The two engage in battle but they are forced to delay their fight so that they can escort the caravan carrying Wen Zhu (Zhao Wei) and a Buddhist monk to safety. This escort soon proves dangerous because the monk, carrying a sacred and powerful pagoda, has attracted the attention of the region’s ruthless overlord Master An (Wang Xeuqi). Now, Lai Xi and Lt. Li must work together to overcome the harsh conditions of the desert and the brutality of the overlord’s men. Thus, this setting creates a poignant tale about battle, comradeship, and honor.
The initial title of the film was “Heroes of Heaven and Earth” but was changed to “Warriors of Heaven and Earth.” The film was originally slated to be released at a later date but was pushed to September 23, 2003 so that it could qualify for the Best Foreign Language Film Category at the 2004 Academy Awards. The movie appeared as the opening film for the Tokyo Festival.
Many have equated this film’s production quality with that of Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which had 11 nominations and won four awards at the 2001 Academy Awards. The director and the crew went to great lengths to make sure the movie stayed true to the history. Clothes, weapons, armors and even the fictional city of Damaying were created from scratch. The movie was a multicultural production with its cast members hailing from Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and Japan. The musical score was created by A.R. Rahman, the man behind the music for Bollywood movies such as Lagaan, which also garnered a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2002 Academy Awards.
Ping directed his first film in 1989 with Kawashin Yoshko followed by Swordsman of Double Flag Town the following year. But many people may remember him for his third film, Red Firecracker, Green Firecracker (1993) based on the 1991 novel by Feng Jicai. This movie won three Golden Rooster awards in China, Best Actress at San Sebastian, and Best Feature at the Hawaiian International Film Festival.
China's Film Industry
Ping belongs to the Fifth Generation of Chinese filmmakers, an era characterized by artistic inventiveness which drew its inspiration from the Cultural Revolution and the Japanese occupation. This generation flourished between 1987 and mid-1995 and helped create what is generally known as the “Chinese New Wave.” But for several years now, the Chinese film industry has been on a steady decline, further exacerbated by the penetration of Hollywood films into the market. Approximately 70 percent of all Chinese-made films each year lose money, and box office figures from 1997 to 1999 indicate that the majority of these films brought in less than 1 million yuan (about US $120,000). Because of this, a new era of filmmakers known as the Sixth Generation, has emerged within the last year or so, intent on making profits and blockbuster hits, which wasn’t a concern for the previous generation. With this commercial approach, the traditional way of defining directorial styles by “generations” are also disappearing.
Despite this, the Fifth Generation continues to be a prominent force in Chinese cinema. In fact, the biggest film of 2002 was the long-awaited Hero by fifth-generation director Zhang Yimou. If Ping receives the award at this year’s Academy Awards, it will be a much needed boost for China’s film market.
For more information about the movie, please visit the official website at www.warriors-movie.com (English and Chinese).
Date Posted: 1/23/2004