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China Film
Feb 10, 2020

Zhenbeipu Western Film Studio  

Constructed on the ruins of an old fortress outside Yinchuan in northwestern China near the edge of the Gobi desert, the Western Film Studio has been used in numerous epic historical films. Writer Zhang Xianliang first had the idea to use the site as a film location after spending time laboring on a nearby farm during the Cultural Revolution. The 1982 film The Herdsman, based on a story by Zhang, was the first feature film made here and one of the first Chinese films to get international recognition. Other noteworthy films shot here include Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorghum (1987), Hong […]

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China Film
Jan 10, 2020

Shiqiu Film and Television Base  

The local Shiqiu town government, outside Nanjing, took on the cost of constructing a Roman Catholic cathedral for Zhang Yimou’s Flowers of War (2011) starring Christian Bale. As the Japanese army overtakes Nanjing, the church becomes a refuge and hiding place for 13 schoolgirls, 12 prostitutes, an American mortician (played by Bale), and a boy who had been adopted by the priest (now dead). Despite generous explosions and gunfire throughout the film, the church survives, and today it sits in the middle of a landscaped green lawn. The site failed to attract other large-scale productions but is still used for […]

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China Film
Jan 7, 2020

The Eight Hundred (八百)  

The Eight Hundred (八百), an $80 million war film directed by Guan Hu, was slated to be one of the most anticipated releases of 2019. However, at the last minute its debut as the opening film at the Shanghai International Film Festival was cancelled a planned July theatrical release put on hold. No explanation was offered at the time, but commentators suspect that the film ran into problems with government censors. While the film tells a seemingly patriotic story, based on a classic battle in which a band of Chinese soldiers held off the Japanese advance on Shanghai from a […]

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China Film
Jan 2, 2020

Huayi Brothers Movie World  

Huayi Brothers Movie World opened July 2018 in Suzhou, China, after six years of construction and at a cost of over $50 million. Like Disneyland or Universal Studios, the sprawling theme park is based around the company’s most popular films, such as the Detective Dee series. The park includes five major themed areas, including a Tang Dynasty palace and a Civil War-era courtyard complex, along with merchandise shops at every corner. One of the highlights is a live action show where the audience can watch how action on the stage is transformed, through multiple cameras and live editing, into a […]

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China Film
Dec 31, 2019

Zhongshan Movie & Television Town  

Zhongshan Movie & Television Town is located in Guangdong Province next door to the childhood home of Sun Yat-sen, first President of the Republic of China. The town is based around landmarks from Sun’s life and travels, including a London police office, an English church, the San Francisco Chinese Expats Club, and the family’s residence in New York. It was created by the local government for the shooting of a 2001 biographical TV drama. It continues to be used today for period TV series and films.

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China Film
Dec 27, 2019

China Film Group State Production Base  

The China Film Group Corporation is the largest state-owned film production and distribution company in China. It is the only official importer of foreign films to China and has had a hand in numerous large scale co-productions bringing foreign stars to China, including Matt Damon in The Great Wall and Keanu Reeves in Man of Tai Chi. The production base in Yangsong Town, Huairou, outside Beijing, includes state-of-the-art digital production facilities, sixteen sound stages, equipment and props warehouses, and large outdoor studio lots. On any given day you might see a busy 20th century street scene, a martial arts fight, […]

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China Film
Dec 26, 2019

African Streets outside Beijing  

One of the newest additions to China Film Group lot outside Bejing is a North African streetscape built for megahit action film Wolf Warrior II (战狼2). In the 2017 film, a former elite special ops soldier saves a group of Chinese nationals caught up in a rebel attack in an unnamed African country. The film is one of a series of recent releases that highlight contemporary China’s global reach. As Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker, “Wolf Warrior II captures a new, muscular iteration of China’s self-narrative, much as Rambo’s heroics expressed the swagger of the Reagan era.” It […]

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China Film
Dec 25, 2019

The Beijing Film Studio  

While little actual film production takes place in Beijing these days, the capital area remains an important center for the film industry, home to the Beijing Film School, the China Film Archive, the National Film Museum, and the central government’s film and television administration. The old Beijing Film Studio in central Beijing, now largely abandoned, was used for classic films such as The Last Emperor (1987) and Farewell, My Concubine (1993). The remaining warehouses and back lot have been slated for demolition. I visited last year to photograph the surviving set pieces, a few small clusters of traditional wooden shops […]

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China Film
Nov 29, 2019

New Photobook: Once Upon a Time in Shanghai now available from Daylight Books!  

My latest photobook, Once Upon a Time in Shanghai (Daylight Books, 2019), documents the movie industry in mainland China. The book is now available for order from the publisher Daylight Books. You can also find it at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington DC. Or ask your local bookstore to order it!

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China Film / Press
Nov 29, 2019

Press for ‘Once Upon a Time in Shanghai’  

My new photobook ‘Once Upon a Time in Shanghai’ has already been generating some media buzz. Here are a few links interviews and stories about the book: Bloomberg: Behind the Scenes of China’s Multibillion-Dollar Film Studios Wired: China’s Sprawling Movie Sets Put Hollywood to Shame New York Times: These Books Take You to a Wild Place It’s Nice That: Mark Parascandola documents the scenery and sets of China’s booming film industry SupChina News: ‘The Ambiguity Between Truth And Fiction’ Interview Radii.China: Photographing Behind the Scenes of the Chinese Film Industry Daily Mail: The mega Chinese film studios that put Hollywood to […]

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