Hollywood in China
The documentary compares Beiputuo Film and TV Training Base to Universal Studios Hollywood because both have what movie makers need to produce fabulous films: excellent dancers and singers, authentic looking sets and highly skilled actors and actresses. Universal Studios in Hollywood was begun by a visionary named Carl Laemmle who purchased the land in 1915 for his new movie studio. The visionary for Beiputuo was Ms. Mei Zi, the founder, president and chairman of the area of more than 75 acres, which includes old Ming and Quing Dynasty styled villages for historical movie makers, temples, a lake, a Mongolian jurt village and plenty of action and entertainment.
Mei Zi was only three years old when her father died, and it meant a difficult life for the family. Her mother did whatever she could, including making unfired bricks, selling boiled water and doing laundry to support young Mei Zi and to give her the proper education. Mei Zi studied hard and she became interested in literature at an early age. After her graduation, she started writing books and TV plays that were well received by the viewers of national television in China. All at once the girl who was very poor had become a remarkably wealthy lady.
Mei Zi never forgot the folks back in Huojia County who so generously helped her when she lived there as a farm girl. She arranged 36 students from poor families in the county to come to Beiputuo to study, and she covered all their expenses. Because of poverty, some parents only let the boys go to school, but not the girls. In Beiputuo, the children of the peasants can study art and become professional artists. They can study acting, dancing, painting, different kinds of instruments and traditional Chinese or Western styles of singing, as well as basic college lessons.
In addition to carrying forward the fine traditional culture of the Chinese nation, Chairman Mei Zi wants to promote international cultural and artistic exchanges. A performing group from Hawaii was the first western entertainment troupe to come and give their show in Beiputuo.
To Beiputuo, Ms. Mei Zis Hollywood in China, traditional singing, playing, acting and dancing are the national treasures of China. It regards it as an honor to do whatever it can to promote these arts and to keep them alive.
Ms. Mei Zis HOLLYWOOD IN CHINA - The Documentary was shot in and around Beijing, China. The Beiputuo Film and Television Training Base, 30 miles south of Beijing, was the center of operations providing both Betacam SP camera crews, as well as lodging and transportation. The on-location-period of three weeks was one of the most interesting ones, recalls Mr. Erkki Kanto, Executive Producer and Director of the program.
-Most of the time my crew stayed inside the Beiputuo area, Erkki Kanto tells. -It was the month of May, and the weather favored us for the whole period. On their 75-acre lot, Beiputuo has a hotel of their own, one main restaurant and several smaller ones, as well as grocery stores and even a karaoke disco, and they are building a second, larger hotel to be opened in 1998.
Of the two hundred students of Beiputuo, several performed in this TV production, some demonstrating their talents as singers, musicians and ballet and acrobatic artists, some acting in the reenactments of the program. Mr. Kanto states that also the cooperation of the faculty and staff of Beiputuo worked seamlessly. -However, he continues, there were some minor problems in understanding each other because of the cultural differences. For instance, whatever we asked for from the staff, we were always told, yes, of course. But however, if what we asked for was not acceptable for them, nothing happened. Sometimes, after a few days, I repeated my request, and I was told, yes, of course. But then again, nothing happened. In my Western culture, I can say a polite no, but in the Chinese traditions, it is not polite to do that.
One of the problems still today in the Chinese traditions and the way of living seems to be that if a family is poor, and they have both a girl and a boy, the boy is the one they send to school. After all, they seem to figure out, the girl will get married and move away, why spend money on her. Whereas the son traditionally looks after his parents when they grow old.
-Ms. Mei Zi, the founder of Beiputuo, has paid special attention to the girls that have been neglected that way. All together, in Beiputuo, she is personally sponsoring the living expenses and school for 36 children who come from very poor families or are orphans. During our production in China, we heard several sad stories where fathers had left their families when the only child they are supposed to have, has been a girl. Weirdly enough, the law says that only one child per family, but in reality, the father may continue making children with other women. There are many young girls in China who do not ever remember seeing their fathers.
-For the Ms. Mei Zis HOLLYWOOD IN CHINA - The Documentary, we interviewed several mothers and daughters like that. It was very dramatic to hear one mother recall how, after her husband had left the family, she had to sell her own blood to pay for the school expenses of their daughter!
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