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.
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 wouldnt 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.
||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.
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
movies 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, its likely that Ill 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 Im not betting my testicles on it.
© Mark McEvans September 2002
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