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Set in the Qing dynasty 230 years ago, this lush, epic drama brings to life the historical origins of Peking Opera through the tale of two young opera singers who risk their lives to perform for the emperor at a special celebration for his 80th birthday.
Directed by Mei HU and written by Zou Jingzhi (Zhang Yimou’s “Coming Home,” Wong Kar Wai’s “The Grandmaster”), the film won the Chinese American Film Festival’s top prizes for best director and best feature film earlier this year and will forgo a planned theatrical release and to be released on Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand by Cinema Libre Studio starting August 18th.
Based entirely on historical events and figures from the Qing Dynasty, the period in which Peking Opera first began to flourish in Imperial China, the film was developed by Hu Mei over a period of six years. Production was significantly delayed due to a fire that burned down the studio the crew was utilizing, taking two years to complete in 2018.
No sets were designed for the film, which is shot entirely on location, although over 200 hand tailored costumes were created in order to replicate Peking Opera clothing from the Qing Dynasty. Hu is well-known in China for several acclaimed television and film works. Her previous film Confucius, which stars Chow Yun Fat, was released in the US in 2010.
To grasp the history behind the movie, Hu and her team traveled to the mountainous areas of China’s Anhui province, where opera played a key part in the education of children. “The role that opera plays here is that it condenses China’s thousands of years of music, drama, politics, culture, worldly wisdom and moral principles into various repertoires,” says Hu. “The about 1,000 popular opera songs in the area were passed down from parents to children, from generation to generation.”
Yue Jiu, the most famous opera singer in all of Imperial China, is expelled from the capital city for vulgarity. He heads south, where he encounters Wang Runsheng, a promising young opera singer for the Chuntai Troupe. When the Emperor invites all of China’s opera troupes back to the capital city for a celebration, Yue Jiu and Runsheng are forced to choose between their reputations, their safety, and their love of opera.
Genre: Historical Drama | Run Time: 113 mins | Language: Mandarin with English subtitles | Rating: Unrated