SA and Chinese Unite in A Pair of Golden Wings
In a world first, South Africa’s Colony Films have partnered with Chinese producers to tell a love story that spans continents.
In a groundbreaking moment, SA and China have begun work on their first co-production, called A Pair of Golden Wings. Set largely in Qinghai Province in the Himalayas and the wetlands of northern of Gauteng, it tells the story of a conservationist who strives to protect China’s endangered red-crowned crane. When she comes across a blue crane with a South African tag, she decides to return the bird to its original nesting ground. Local Director Darrell Roodt is attached, as well as Producer Greig Buckle of Enigma Pictures.
We caught up with Murray Walker, who heads up Colony Films, to find out more.
What was it about this story that made it attractive for this collaboration?
I’ve worked with head producer and screenwriter, Mr Jin, before and we had such a great collaboration that I was more than happy to work with him again. At first, he approached me just to act in his movie as well as help him find a top Western director. I’m good friends with Darrell Roodt and so that was an easy fit. I was just building my film co-production business, Colony Films, at the time and so I introduced the idea of a co-production to him. He was very keen to rework the script to include a South African story.
I also like what this story is and what it’s trying to do. It’s a love story that takes place on a conservation wetland that is the nesting home of China’s endangered red-crowned crane. Mr Jin loves ethnic minorities, especially the Tibetan culture and so his story includes Tibetan characters, dance and music. I knew he would take an interest in our African ethnic groups as well. And so now we’re expanding the story to include these diverse and colourful African elements.
Would you see this film as the beginning of a broader series of co-productions between China and South Africa?
Absolutely. At present, South Africa and in particular, Cape Town, is an untapped film market as far as the Chinese are concerned. It’s just not on their radar. I believe that one or two successful collaborations will cause the mammoth Chinese film industry to take notice and follow suit. We have stunning locations, very experienced crews, state-of-the-art studios and a very favourable exchange rate. It’s only a matter of time.
Do you think there is a market for such stories within China and if so why?
This story is an artsy, independent film. It’s hard to say what will resonate with the Chinese audience since they’re incredibly fickle. Asura, the most expensive Chinese film ever made, was yanked from cinemas after just a few days. Then you’ve got quaint, feel good Indian films like Dangal chalking up $190 million. We believe we’ve got a touching love story imbued with rich ethnic diversity, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
What would the benefits of this production be to the film industries of both countries?
This would put SA firmly on the Chinese map as an exciting and favourable place to shoot. And the South African film-makers would see that collaborating with the Chinese is possible and makes sense on many levels. Yes, the language will always be a problem. I guess that’s where speaking fluent Chinese will help me expand my business.
Is it envisaged that the acting, crew and other talent for the production would be provided by South Africa and China – i.e. no American starts etc.
Yes, this will exclusively be a South Africa, China production. Having said that, there is a small chance that I may cast one or two American actors based in Beijing, purely because I know them and they’ll be nearby. I lived in Beijing for 10 years and so I have a lot of friends in the film industry.
Can you provide a ballpark figure of how much such a production might cost and how the funds are planned to be raised?
The investment is coming from the Chinese side. Mr Jin has told me that the budget is around R60 million, but this will largely depend on which actors get attached. As far as I know, I’m the only confirmed actor.
This article was first published in Issue 3 of the Callsheet.