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First Post-Pandemic China-UK Co-production Film UNTAMED wrapped the UK shoot
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First Post-Pandemic China-UK Co-production Film UNTAMED wrapped the UK shoot

UNTAMED, an official co-production film between China’s Juben Pictures and UK’s Sinner Films, recently completed filming in the UK at the Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, England. The film is the first official China-UK co-production project that has started shooting since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and is part of the “Collaborative China" section of the 2021 "All Under One moon 2021" online campaign presented by the China National Tourist Office, LONDON (CNTO London).

On October 22nd, CNTO London and Juben Pictures jointly held a virtual wrapping ceremony for the film. Minister-Counselor YU Peng of the Chinese Embassy in the UK, Madam XUE Ling, Director of CNTO London, Chairman WANG Qiang of Juben Pictures, co-founder WANG Luna of Juben Pictures, co-founder of Juben Pictures and producer of the film ZHU Li, UK director Justin Chadwick, UK producer and screenwriter David Murdoch, Lady Edward Manners, owner of the Haddon Hall, Councilor Christopher Kettle, former Chairman of the Stafford-upon-Avon District Council, UK screenwriter Polly Courtney, director of photography Felix Cramer, and the main cast of the film delivered remarks at the event. In addition, journalists from the Xinhua News Agency, People’s Daily Online, Global Times, The Chinese Weekly, Nouvelles D’Europe, Chinese Headline New Media as well as partners of the 2021 All Under One Moon online campaign such as Make it China, China Hour, OE Media, Cambridge China Centre joined the event. 

UNTAMED tells a story of three young and passionate underdogs from the 16th century England, 1930s Shanghai, and contemporary China, persevering and struggling for their dreams against all odds on their own terms. The three stories are thematically and seamlessly connected by Shakespeare’s famous comedy Taming of the Shrew. The film focuses on depicting Zhu’s difficulty of translating during the war to emphasize the remarkable contribution of the protagonist, Zhu Shenghao, the first person to translate almost the complete works of Shakespeare into Chinese.

Zhu Shenghao devoted himself during his short life-time to translation. He had translated 31 Shakespeare plays before he died at an early age due to overwork. His Chinese translation edition is regarded as the most complete, high-quality and widely acclaimed version of Shakespeare's works in China and was praised by dramatist Cao Yu for his "extraordinary achievements." The film celebrates the integrity and patriotism of Chinese people under national tragedy and promotes the great craftsman's spirit.

The film was co-written by Chinese and UK screenwriters and filmed separately by the two directors in London, Derbyshire and Shanghai. Since its inception, the film has been selected into the 23rd Shanghai Film Festival SIFF Project and has received an official China-UK co-production certificate from the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Madam Xue Ling delivered a welcoming speech at the ceremony. She said that UNTAMED has been selected as a wonderful representative of the “Collaborative China” section of the 2021 “All under One Moon” online campaign, which emphasizes the outstanding results of cross-culture collaborations in the arts. CNTO London sees this co-production as an excellent culture bridge between the UK and China and will actively back the project moving forward in publicity and promotion in China and the UK.

Producer Zhu Li gave a detailed introduction to the film's origins, the collaboration between China and the UK, and the shooting and production plans.

The film's initiator, WANG Qiang, Chairman of Juben Pictures, said that making a film about words is a challenge through a pre-recorded video. Nearly a century ago, ZHU translated Shakespeare's works into Chinese with precision and elegance, like the builder of the Babel Tower, linking people who do not understand each other's tongues together. Making this film is also following in ZHU's footsteps to pass down the baton about communication, understanding for China and the rest of the world.

UK director Justin Chadwick (known for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013), The Other Boleyn Girl (2008), Bleak House (2005), who has won the BAFTA Award for Best Director and been nominated for Oscars, Golden Globes and Emmys) said that making the film was a very memorable that the international team from China, UK, US and Europe worked together under the pressure of the pandemic to bring this story onto stage. The film also makes him, as a British, re-examine his perception of Shakespeare, explore and discover the unknown personalities of the wife of Shakespeare, and present a richer and livelier portrayal of the characters.

UK screenwriter David Murdoch (known for The Most Assassinated Woman in the World‎ (2018), The Vice, and Lady Macbeth (2016), and won the Best Screenplay at the BAFTAs and the Royal Television Society) said he was deeply impressed by Zhu Shenghao's story when he first heard it years ago and that he must tell this story of courage and perseverance for people in the UK and around the world. The story is about connection, the connection between Shakespeare and Zhu Shenghao, the connection between UK and China, the connection between people worldwide. The film is praise of China-UK friendship and cultural exchange.

Alexandra Gilbreath, an acclaimed actress at the Royal Shakespeare Company and an expert in Shakespeare studies, said that 'collaboration' was the keyword in this production and that joining in the film's pre-production was one of the most enjoyable and inspiring experiences of her career. She has performed The Taming of the Shrew many times on the theatre stage and has deep affection for the play. Zhu Shenghao's story made her realize the profound influence of Shakespeare's writing, which still resonates emotionally even across time and language.

The film shooting location is set in the thousand-year-old Haddon Hall, the most intact Tudor-style manor in England, where many films such as Jane EyreElizabeth and Pride and Prejudice have been shot here. The owner of the Haddon Hall, Lady Edward Manners, said that she had worked in China for many years and remained fond of China. So when she heard this story of cultural exchange between China and the UK, she immediately decided to help make the film. She hopes the film will inspire more people in China and the UK to engage in cultural exchange and improve communications between the two countries.

Councilor Kettle, who has promoted a series of collaborations between Stratford-upon-Avon, home to birthplace of Shakespeare and Fuzhou, birthplace of Tang Xianzu, said that he had watched a performance of The Peony Pavilion in Fuzhou and that the story of a young man and woman breaking through resistance to be together was very reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, which is also an excellent example of the interconnectedness of human emotions. He appreciated Zhu Shenghao for his efforts to make Shakespeare's works accessible to all Chinese people. He was delighted to see that all Tang Xianzu's works were also translated into English two years ago.

The film was also supported by Zhu Shenghao's hometown of Jiaxing and his family. In addition, Zhu Shenghao's son, Zhu Shanggang, made a pre-recorded video for the ceremony. He said the filmmakers from China and UK together chose to deliver this story that transcends the time and place of Shakespeare, and Zhu Shenghao is a symbol that reflects the desire of the Chinese and British people for cultural exchange. Eighty years ago, as a translator of Shakespeare's plays, his father built a bridge for the Chinese people to understand English literature. Eighty years later, which also coincides with the 110th anniversary of his father's birth, UNTAMED will introduce Chinese culture and the spirit of Chinese people to the British audience through film.

In his concluding remarks, Minister Counselor YU Peng said that Zhu Shenghao had devoted his life to translating all Shakespeare's works into Chinese, making him a household name in China. This is a great story of the interplay of East and West communication. It deserves to be known and remembered by the Chinese, British, and the world. As Ambassador ZHENG Zeguang said in his speech at the launch of the 2021 "All Under One Moon" campaign, China and the UK are representative countries of Eastern and Western culture, and culture are enriched through exchange and mutual learning. The 2021 "All Under on Moon" campaign will further expand the prospects for cultural exchanges between China and UK, promote mutual understanding and contribute to the improvement and development of China-UK relations.

He said that UNTAMED fully embodies the spirit of exchange and mutual learning between the two countries and will certainly live up to its mission of bringing the Chinese and British people closer together and enhancing China-UK relations. Since the pandemic outbreak, many excellent China-UK cooperation projects have had to be postponed or canceled. The successful completion of this film provides an example of continued cooperation between the two countries in the arts and culture areas during the post-pandemic period. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the UK and China at the ambassadorial level. The release of this film will be a perfect tribute to this historic occasion.

The film is currently in the editing phase in leading UK post-production company Final Cut, and the Chinese story of the film is also being prepared in earnest. It is expected to be released in the latter next year.

China MinutesDarcy Littler

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