Scene clips & screen stills from “1911″ (we were extras!)

Below are some screen stills and scene clips that some friends and I were extras in for the Jackie Chan/Chinese propaganda film “1911” 《辛亥革命》.

For some photos from filming and info about the 1911 Revolution, see:

You can see all the photos and screen stills at the photo gallery:

Denver Library scene

1911 movie: Denver Library scene (YouTube)

Sun Zhongshan speech scene

1911 movie: Sun Zhongshan speech (YouTube)

Related stuff:

We were extras in “1911” — a big-budget Chinese propaganda Jackie Chan movie! (here are some photos)

Filming 1911

It’s maybe not as big as that other big propaganda movie from this year, “The Founding of the Party,” because without the Party reality itself would cease to exist and Sun Yat-sen was into some stuff that the Party doesn’t really go for, but this is still big stuff. “1911” is a big-budget Jackie Chan Chinese propaganda epic commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1911 Revolution (辛亥革命, see below for historical info/links), with “over 70 famous Chinese actors” including Winston Chao (赵文瑄) as Sun Yat-sen (孫中山) and Lǐ BÄ«ngbÄ«ng (李冰冰) as Jackie Chan’s wife.

And we were extras for two days of filming! Or, some friends and I were; Jessica had to stay home. So if we’re reeeally lucky I or someone we know will get part of an appendage in the background of a scene for a split-second.

On our first day of filming they needed foreigners to be political delegates for a scene where Sun Yatsen gives the speech announcing that he’s giving up the presidency of the brand new republic (knowing that he can’t retain power due to Yuan Shikai). Basically we stood around, and occasionally they filmed us standing around, clapping for Winston Chao/Sun Yat-sen, and acting surprised when he makes his announcement.

The second day was better: we were foreigners sitting in the “Colorado Denver Public Library”. Sun Yatsen is in the States on a fundraising trip. He comes into the library, starts reading the paper and discovers in the headlines that revolution has broken out in China. He chokes on his food in surprise, and we foreigners look up from our books at the disturbance.

Here are a couple photos, with more in the photo gallery.

With Natalie on a veeeery cold set.

Dingle (aka James) poses cooperatively so I can get a shot of Winston Chao (赵文瑄).

The “Colorado Denver Public Library”.

The books were real.

More photos in the photo gallery!

Competing 1911 historical narratives

The 1911 Revolution marked the official end of five million years of unbroken imperial rule in China (this other propaganda movie is about the unification of China and the beginning of imperial rule). For a quick history lesson:

  • China 1911: The Birth of China’s Tragedy (History Today)
    “…for all the celebrations in the mainland and Taiwan this autumn, the revolution of 1911-12 brought no real solution and left China facing decades of suffering.”
  • Reading Round-Up: The Xinhai Revolution, One Hundred Years Later
  • The Xinhai Revolution (Wikipedia)
    “The Xinhai Revolution…, also known as the Revolution of 1911 or the Chinese Revolution, was a revolution that overthrew China’s last imperial dynasty, the Qing (1644-1912), and established the Republic of China. The revolution, which began with the Wuchang Uprising on October 10, 1911 and ended with the abdication of the “Last Emperor” Puyi on February 12, 1912, is named after the Xinhai year in the sexagenary cycle of the Chinese calendar. The Xinhai Revolution marks the end of over 2,000 years of Imperial China and the beginning of China’s Republican era.”

And here’s an intro to the battle between Taiwan and China over the 1911 historical narrative:

  • What really happened on Oct. 10, 1911?
    “In the run up to the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution, Beijing has been performing a spectacular tightrope walk. Officials have been told that it should be a grand affair, but must be careful not to upstage the celebration of the Party’s 90th anniversary. This is because even though Sun Yat-sen is seen by many Chinese as the father of modern China, his ideas do not fit the country’s current direction.”
  • One revolution, two interpretations
    “Taiwan and China have taken different approaches to commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Wuchang Uprising, which took place on Oct. 10, 1911 and marked the beginning of a series of revolutions that eventually ended dynastic rule and led to the establishment of the Republic of China.
    “These differences are created by the complex history of and sensitive political disputes between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, who are both trying to put forward their interpretation of history as definitive.”
  • China’s Communist Party celebrates 1911 Revolution in low key
    “Naysayers note however that celebrations for Sun Yat-sen and 1911 Revolution (Xinhai) are low-key compared to those in Taiwan, where Sun is seen as the ‘Father of the Nation’, and an inspiration for the country’s cardinal principles: nationalism, democracy and people’s wellbeing. Others believe that Sun’s low profile is probably designed not to overshadow the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party, celebrated last July.”
  • A Century After Xinhai: Whose Revolution?
  • 1911: the Xinhai Year of Revolution 辛亥革命
    “A hundred years on the Xinhai remains a controversial period. The year 2011 started with Ma Ying-jeou 馬英九 in Taiwan lauding the Xinhai centenary… On the other side of the Taiwan Strait reflections are not quite as sanguine. The previous official monopoly over the interpretation of history has long since been undermined.”
  • Profound shift as China marches back to Mao
    “Both the Communist Party and dem0cr@tic activists claim the Xinhai Revolution as part of their historical ancestry.

    “”The left, in the sense of representing anti-dem0cr@tic dictatorship, does not own revolutionary legitimacy in China,” said David Kelly, research director at China Policy in Beijing and a visiting professor at Peking University. “The anniversary of 1911 brings into play the fundamental decision between social dem0cr@cy and revolutionary dictatorship.””

If any interesting movie reviews come out, or if we get some incriminating screen stills, I’ll post them here.

Scene Clips & Screen Stills! [2011-10-30 update]

The movie’s out, and you can see video clips of the scenes we’re in and screen stills of us in action here:

The photo gallery has been updated with all the new screen stills.

[Photo Gallery:] Filming Jackie Chan’s Chinese propaganda movie “1911”

Photos from two days of filming as extras in the big-budget epic “1911”, plus movie clips of the scenes we were in and screen stills from the movie. Read more about it here:

You can leave comments below.

Shower (洗澡)

Shower (洗澡 / xǐ zÇŽo) is my current favourite Chinese movie. It’s a funny but sad story about an old bathhouse owner, his two sons, and their bathhouse patrons that plays out amidst the rapid changes and upheaval of contemporary urban China. It’s a personal, family-and-neighbourhood-level look at the way life in China is changing in drastic ways.

The movie is full of fun characters and their mundane problems: the old men and their cricket-fighting squabbles, the middle-aged husband using the bathhouse to hide from his wife, the wannabe primadonna with debilitating stage fright who uses the public shower as his personal practice room…

The bathhouse in the movie looks like a slightly fancier version of the one I visited in Tianjin’s Nanshi hutongs, which has since been bulldozed.

My only (very picky) squabble with this movie is that it seems to unnecessarily over-romanticize the way of life that’s rapidly disappearing from China’s major urban centres. Some scenes, like the evening neighbourhood park scenes, are just a little too colourful, tidy, and well-mannered compared to what I’ve seen here. If the director had allowed a few more ragged edges, it would feel just that much more authentic.

There’s plenty of dialogue that intermediate language students could pick up no problem, and the accents aren’t too thick.

Aside from the occasional mooning (mostly old-man butts) and some offensive language during a humourous yelling match between a married couple, this movie is pretty much family-safe.

Pushing Hands (推手) & The Gua Sha Treatment (刮痧)

We saw two Chinese movies recently that might be worth watching for the cross-cultural issues they bring up.

Pushing Hands / 推手 / tuī shǒu
tuishou2.gifPushing Hands is a family drama in which a successful Chinese immigrant, along with his American wife and their young ABC son, bring the grandfather from Beijing to live with them in their New York suburb. This sparks family cross-cultural tensions tuishou1.jpgas the main character struggles to balance his roles as husband, father, and son simultaneously across two different cultures. The viewer gets an introduction to the issues faced by Chinese-American cross-cultural households, imported Chinese grandparents, and the struggle of Chinese Americans to uphold Chinese family values (filial piety) in American society. There’s quite a bit of English dialogue, as the wife only speaks English, but you’ll still need subtitles.

The Gua Sha Treatment / 刮痧 / guā shā
guashacover.jpgGua Sha is a family/courtroom drama about a successful, well-adjusted, Chinese immigrant couple in St. Louis with an ABC 5-year-old boy. One day the grandfather, who doesn’t speak any English, etc., gives the boy a harmless traditional Chinese medicine treatment that leaves terrible-looking red marks on his back. When a Western doctor in the hospital discovers the welts the couple loses custody of their son and ends up in a legal battle. The story highlights cultural differences, particularly where Americans misunderstand the Chinese.

About half the dialogue is in English, but you’ll still want subtitles.

Aside from one scene where, in their grief, the couple gets plastered and calls themselves obscene names in English, there’s not much offensive in the movie, if you don’t count some occasional over-the-top writing and acting.

Iron & Silk

A friend first recommended we watch the 1990 movie made of this book because it was full of examples of Chinese culture, but in a way that’s accessible to foreigners who know little about China. I barely remember the movie because we watched it in the wee hours of the night while working the night shift at a Hurricane Katrina shelter. But after reading the book, I can see our friend was right.

Iron & Silk is an effortless, PG-rated read that a junior high student could finish in just a couple hours. It’s really a collection of short stories that highlight various cultural differences the author experienced in the two years he spent teaching English in China in the early 1980’s, and this keeps the content varied and interesting. Iron & Silk doesn’t explain anything about Chinese culture, but it’s a clear window into entertaining and unique experiences among everyday Chinese people of that particular time and place. It’s also rather unique among the “I taught English in China” travel books.

Author Mark Salzman‘s experiences were pretty unique for a few reasons. First, Salzman could speak an exceptional amount of Chinese before he arrived, which he learned while completing an Ivy League degree in Chinese literature and doing some serious martial arts training. This means that, unlike the rest of us, he could hear and see what was going on around him starting the first day, and this opens up a whole new world of possibilities among locals that most of us only dream of. Second, he was already rather accomplished in 武术 by the time he arrived, and his experiences of training with some famous Chinese wÇ”shù masters certainly makes for unique reading material. Third, he taught in China for two years starting in 1982; he experienced a China that may not exist anymore (at least I hope it doesn’t… I don’t know if I could stand having to listen to and negotiate that much political-ese every day, never mind imagining masses forced to endure it). And forth, he sticks to narrating and almost completely refrains from commentary; aside from relating how he may have felt at a particular moment, he allows the people to speak for themselves and leaves the reader to decide what to think. Several reviews describe it as unpretentious.

As of today, this book can be delivered to your door for under $5. And in the movie, Salzman and his most famous wǔshù instructor play themselves.

Heros – and the Greater Good

We’ve reached the first rung on the long ladder of cultural understanding – the “make cheesy over-generalized anecdotes from movies like in a bad sermon” rung. The “actually know what we’re talking about” rung is somewhere in the upper atmosphere… we have a ways to go. But still – let the irresponsible illustrating begin!

hero.jpgIn the movie Hero, the main character (who may or may not be the story’s true hero), is an assassin who allows a ruthless, oppressive warlord to kill him, rather than take revenge when he has the chance and kill the warlord, who had massacred the assassin’s family along with a whole lot of other people. This allows the not-assassinated warlord to eventually conquer all the other warlords and unify China, thus ending the interminable fighting between the Warring States. The assassin chooses peace and subjugation for his people and death for himself over giving this guy what he deserved. The movie ends with the usual death, suicide, bittersweet (mostly bitter) romance, sorrow, and generally amplified pathos that we’re coming to recognize in a lot of Chinese stories, as all the people who personally sacrificed so the assassin would have a chance eventually realize the superiority of peace and harmony through submission to authoritarianism over revenge, justice(?), and more war.

destiny.jpgNow, imagine if Star Wars embraced this approach. Instead of a bunch of cocky, colourful space cowboys taking on an oppressive, British-accented galactic Empire through coordinated feats of individualistic heroism, not the least of which involve Luke Skywalker pursuing and fulfilling his very own special, personal destiny, they decide to just submit to the strong-arm overlords, go back to their own lives, mind their own business, keep their heads down, and each look after their own (assuming that they didn’t realize the wisdom of this approach too late and so end up dying anyway, but not before their unenlightened quest manages to tear all their romantic hopes to pieces, for good measure).

At the risk of peddling tired cultural stereotypes, the idea that individuals should give up their personal desires and ambitions (like vengeance and justice) and ultimate self-determination for the sake of peace and “harmony” is hardly a new one. And I imagine it has something to do with why things are the way they are in China, and why they’ve been that way for thousands of years.

(This more in-depth analysis puts it less cynically, and considers the movie’s interesting messages regarding violence.)