New epic looks at Tibet liberation

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, November 29, 2017
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Yang Rui, director of "The Chainbreakers," speaks at a premiere event held at the Beijing Film Academy, Nov. 27, 2017. [Photo provided to]

A new Tibet-themed epic, "The Chainbreakers," is a milestone for ethnic filmmaking in China, its director said on Monday.

Director Yang Rui attended the premiere for the film at the Beijing Film Academy with the cast, including veteran Tibetan actors Tobgyal and Lobsang Namdak. As Yang is also a teacher at the Department of Literature and a graduate from the Department of Film at the academy, she called the event a "homecoming."

"This stage is the place where every filmmaker wants to be, I'm thrilled to be here today with my film," Yang said in presenting "The Chainbreakers" for examination by teachers, students and industry insiders at the academy.

Set in 1950, the epic feature relives a legend in the region's turbulent history from the perspective of a soldier in China's People's Liberation Army who participated in the peaceful liberation of Tibet and became involved in clashes as well as romance. 

Yang Rui, director of "The Chainbreakers," and cast members pose for a group photo at an event held at the Beijing Film Academy, Nov. 27, 2017. [Photo provided to]

Yang tried to explore the story with a sense of humanity, ethnic dignity, local belief and emotion, rather than the condescending attitudes and God's eye-view in many other ethnic films, which she believes is groundbreaking progress for ethnic film production in China.

"How can an observer get inside the local culture? In that special historical context, when a group of idealistic PLA soldiers make it to a strange land in Tibet, there will be clashes and conflicts of values and interests, which attract me, "Yang said. "Everyone in the film, they are chainbreakers. They break their own chains to free themselves and free their minds.”

Except for lead actor Wang Ziyi, who plays the soldier, the other major cast members are all Tibetan natives. The film was in preparation for more than five years, and Yang agreed to helm the project in 2015. But the filming was not easy. The 300-member crew shot principal photography in highlands 4,000 meters above sea level for two months. Many became ill or couldn't adapt to the harsh environment; when they eventually finished, fewer than 50 people remained in the crew.

"The Chainbreakers" will be released in Chinese theaters on Dec. 12, 2017. 

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