Writer hopes film 'Begin, Again' will warm hearts in year-end

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, December 31, 2019
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Writer Zhang Hang speaks at the premiere of "Begin, Again" in Beijing, Dec. 28, 2019, a film he wrote based on his book "Lonely in the City". [Photo courtesy of Daan Pictures]

A cold spell has descended on Beijing, but writer-filmmaker Zhang Hang hopes his novel-adapted film "Begin, Again" can give some warmth to his audience and to all the migrant workers who had bittersweet experiences over the past year.

"I'm a writer who draws inspiration from real life and I pay special attention to the lives of those around me," Zhang said to China.org.cn. The author is better known as Dingding Zhang in China, a pseudonym inspired by the translation of the comic series "The Adventures of Tintin" created by Belgian cartoonist Hergé.

Zhang is a bestselling author who wrote "Life Needs Revealing," "The World Has Nothing to Do with You" and "The Endless Date". He is also a film producer and the former president of Youth Enlight Pictures, a label under Beijing Enlight Media. But Zhang says that during all the years he has been making films, he found that the domestic film market lacks a kind of genuine concern, especially lacking the film depicting and close to the migrant workers.

The main cast of the film pose for a photo at the premiere of "Begin, Again" in Beijing, Dec. 28, 2019. [Photo courtesy of Daan Pictures]

"I always want to write about a person like me, or girls around me, about their individual growth," he said. The film is adapted from his new book "Lonely in the City" which was launched in 2018. Initially, he wrote the story in the format of a screenplay, and later rewrote it as a novel. Now, he has changed the novel back into a screenplay again. 

So Zhang is not just the producer of "Begin, Again", but also the creator and scriptwriter. For him, writing the novel is a process of gradually improving the script.

The story contains a lot of Zhang's personal experiences and emotions. "The plots may vary, but I think the mood is captured very accurately. For example, when your house rent goes up, when you break up with your lover, and when your family member tells you that she has a medical problem... these, I think, are breaking points which can easily hit or crush migrants. I've put all these elements in the movie," he explained.

In addition, during all his years of work on his stories and films, a lot of the staff around him were girls. "Their tenacity, ability to face and solve problems, and the delicate nature of their emotions are simply beyond my imagination. It is those things that really move me. I think many girls' stories are very touching," he said. However, Zhang adds that currently China does not have many films that can really resonate with young women, "I just felt that I could write about this well, so I did it from the perspective of girls. "

The Chinese title of "Begin, Again", when directly translated to English reads "Dear, Happy New Year" and tells the story of love, growing up, and the struggles of two girls in Beijing. The film is directed by Peng Youlun, starring actresses Bai Baihe and Zhang Zifeng as well as actor Wei Daxun.

A poster of "Begin, Again", which tells the story of love, growing up, and the struggles of two girls who left their hometowns to work in Beijing. [Photo courtesy of Daan Pictures]

Zhang Hang didn't want to give an answer on whether a migrant should stay in a metropolis to pursue love and career, or go back to their hometowns to do these things in their comfort zone. "I'm not here to pass judgment. But everyone should find a place that fits him or her. No matter whether you choose to stay home or work in a big city, as long as you are happy, your choice is right. You must be yourself and find your true self and desire."

He added, "The best part of this era, I think, is freedom. You can now choose a variety of lifestyles."

Zhang chose Peng to direct the movie because he was drawn to a creative short film which she directed. He also believed that Peng would spare no efforts to make her first feature-length directorial debut truly shine. Zhang also cast veteran actress Bai, who has convincingly portrayed urban professional women in various urban romance comedies and dramas such as "Love is Not Blind", "Go away Mr. Tumor", "I Belonged to You" and "A City Called Macao."

Zhang also found a very special quality in Zhang Zifeng. The young actress, who is still in high school, is a "very natural actress," according to Zhang. "We must cherish such talent," he said.

The premiere of the film was held in Beijing on Dec. 28, and many migrants, including migrant directors and artists who attended, said that they could relate to the film, which was 'healing'. "This film speaks for all of us and what we want to say to the city of Beijing," said singer Zhang Xiaohou.

"Begin, Again" is not only about love between lovers, but also about the love and support from parents. Zhang said the characters of the parents in his film represent that of "typical" parents in China.

"I feel that 2019 has made everyone upset and anxious, and I hope that my film can comfort everyone," he concluded. "China is a migrant country now, tens of millions of people leave their homes to work and then return for their family reunions during the Spring Festival. It is truly spectacular. But whenever life and difficulties press you, you must stay true to yourselves. You must know what life you want to be living, what dreams you want to pursue and remain true to your original aspirations. This is not selfish, this is what everyone should do. Society should be full of vigour and youth, and we should never be defeated by dull reality."

"Begin, Again" hit Chinese theaters on Dec. 31, the last day of 2019.

Zhang Hang's original novel "Lonely in the City" published in early 2018, which is now a feature film that hits Chinese theaters on Dec. 31. [Image courtesy of Guomai Culture & Media]

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