A poor university student gets ensnared in the illegal hunting and selling of protected animals in the legendary Shangri-La region of South China's Yunnan Province. There unfolds a tale of sin and redemption, love and environmentalism in one of the world's profoundly beautiful places.
Filming of Retour a Shangri-La by director Guo Qing started last Saturday on location. Snow is forecast. The Sino-French co-production is expected to be released in China in October.
It is likely to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
New Sino-French movie Retour a Shangri-La presses home a strong environmental theme, specifically the protection of endangered species like falcons. (ohoto: Shanghai Daily)
This is documentary film maker Guo's first foray into feature films. It's budgeted at around 5 million yuan (US$685,000), but the project already faces a shortage of funds.
It tells the story of college student Nong Ba who gets involved in trafficking in endangered species to help his poor family from a small village in South China.
He is arrested and sentenced to two years' correctional labor.
He is also required to raise and protect the falcon chicks whose parents he killed. At first he cannot adapt to the simple life at the foot of Meili Snow Mountain but the simplicity and warmth of the people and the awe-inspiring setting bring him peace.
"The moment he sends the birds back to the sky, high above the holy Kawagebo Peak, he finally achieves peace of mind and wins a local girl's heart," says director Guo who also wrote the script.
The story is based on actual events, he says, and draws some inspiration from the classic French documentary film Winged Migration.
The dramatic storyline and setting will remind viewers of Lu Chuan's Mountain Patrol about attempts to save the Tibetan antelope from poachers.
"Lu's lyrical movie offers a few surprises and even shocks, but I hope to bring tranquility and serenity to the audience," Guo says.
The film is co-produced by Shanghai Film Group Corp, Shanghai Europe-China Film and TV Culture Co Ltd and Trivydia Films. It is receiving 900,000 yuan in funding from the Shanghai Cultural Development Foundation.
Tibetan dagobas stand sentry at the foot of Mt Meili in the mythical region known as Shangri-La in South China's Yunnan Province.
Protagonist Nong Ba is played by Shao Sifan, a graduate of the French drama school Cours Florent.
The director of photography is cinematographer Zhao Lei, known for the award-winning Postmen in the Mountains.
The World Wildlife Federation of China has already honored the film's dedication to preservation of rare wildlife.
"We need to raise people's awareness of endangered species and explore how to build up harmonious relations between humans and nature," director Guo says. "I hope this artistic film can also perform well at the box office," he says.
"Many thoughtful and artistic films are crowded out at the box office by historical and martial arts blockbusters.''
Filming and production of Retour a Shangri-La faces a funding shortage. Anyone wishing to help can contact the film crew at email@example.com.
(Shanghai Daily January 29, 2008)