About Us

Contact Us


2001 Archives

First Chapters
World Travel
September Issue
October Issue
November Issue
December Issue
Feb 02 Issue
April 02 Issue
May 02 Issue
June02 Issue
July02 Issue
August 02 Issue

A Star is Born in South-West China
...The beast was set loose. I, like I was told, ran for my life

One of the many beauties of travel is its transient spontaneity: The way carefully laid plans can be hijacked by the emergence of more intrepid opportunities and left discarded by the wayside on nothing more than a mere whim.
On a gloomy wet morning in Kunming, South West China, I was persuaded to discard my train ticket to Guizhou province and postpone my trip to the Miao communities in favour of an appearance in a B list Chinese movie, as an evil British soldier. It was an easy choice! Later that evening, two French guys, an Aussie and myself boarded the bus to the film location envisioning private trailers, VIP treatment, Coke, Champagne and groupies.
The location was beautiful. After 15 hours of bouncing about my coffin-like sleeper compartment on the bone jarring road to Leiku we arrived at ‘one of the poorest but most beautiful parts of China’ as a local had described it. I certainly wouldn’t disagree. The area was made up of lush green interlocking valleys and some the most incredible sculptured landscape I've ever seen, a real triumph in their primeval farming techniques. Gushing rivers bisected the valleys while beautiful patchwork rice terraces and corn plantations lined the seemingly insurmountable terrain. From the mountains the rays of sunshine piercing the occasional cloud scattered metallic light upon the valleys lending it an almost heavenly quality. Magical. It was like a scene from a film.

However, the marvel in which I held for the areas natural beauty was not matched by my admiration for the government appointed film crew. In short, they were amateurs. The whole endeavour was plagued by catastrophe. Firstly the production team deemed it a good idea to shoot the film in the rainiest part of China in its rainiest season. So we pretty much did sweet FA for the first 4 days waiting for the weather clear up. When it eventually did, we all set off the set to find out that, when we arrived, the morons had completely lost one of the main actors costumes! So after exchanging abuse for an hour and a half the costume department and production team conspired to send some poor plebe on a 4 hour journey to the nearest town to buy a new suit befitting an evil British governor. Six hours later he returned with probably the frutiest tuxedo I've ever seen: it was sky blue and had frills.

It really was one disaster after another, running out of film in the middle of a shoot, mislaying props, leaving important actors at the hotel and so on, but as you can probably imagine it was pretty funny and we still got paid regardless.

The funniest part was the screw up that occurred filming the elephant scene. It was a cheap, tacky stunt, but the basic idea was that we, the British soldiers, would try and attack a village but, instead, would be thwarted by a stampeding elephant. The scene would be included in the movie’s fitting climax. So before the shoot we were told by the producer that when the elephant begins the chase we should 'run for our lives' (as if we needed telling). But it would be alright, we were told, because the elephant would stop after 5-10 seconds, due to the fact that the pyrotechnics had attached firecrackers to its back, which, in their wisdom, they believed would scare the elephant into ceasing the chase.

Anyway, ‘ACTION’ was called and the beast was set loose. I, like I was told, ran for my life (I really did) and after the agreed period the firecrackers went off . . . but instead of scaring the elephant in to stopping, the 5000 pound monster went ape shit and trashed the whole set. Like I said, amateurs!

The film was rubbish. It was basically state funded propaganda, propagating the tale of how the Lhissa minority people were such great friends with the Han Chinese (who in actual fact used to massacre them) that they collaborated to throw the evil British imperialists out of China. It was like a bad 70's TV show, disjointed, stiff acting, cheap stunts but very funny. Unfortunately, having left China, it’s likely that I’ll never come to possess a copy of ‘Moon Stone’ to prove my 5 minutes of fame to my family and friends. However, if the production team are correct in their assumption, their sorry excuse for film will be screened as Cannes next year.

I can picture me now, dressed in a slick tuxedo, walking down the red carpet with a babe on my arm, stopping to pose for photographs . . . Awesome! But lets just say I’m not betting my testicles on it.

© Mark McEvans September 2002

More World Journeys

< Back to Index
< Reply to this Article

© Hackwriters 2002