Romantic thriller bridges cultures, worlds
Updated: 2016-04-22 11:19
By LIA ZHU in San Francisco(chinadaily.com.cn)
A scene from Pali Road. Photo provided to China Daily
The independent film Pali Road, scheduled for theatrical release in the United States next week, aims at bridging Chinese and American cultures and shattering stereotypes with its multinational casting.
The film tells a story of the search for true love between two worlds. Young doctor Lily, played by Chinese actress Michelle Chen, awakes from a coma after a car crash to find she is married to a husband, Mitch, played by Fast Five actor Sung Kang, and has a child, neither of whom she can remember. To make things worse, she is not with her true love, Neil, played by Twilight star Jackson Rathbone. Her search for the truth leads her to question everything around her, including herself and her very existence.
The romantic thriller is scheduled to screen on April 28 and April 29 in 20 major cities across the US.
"I wanted to make a film that could be appreciated, enjoyed by audiences all over the world," director Jonathan Lim told China Daily. "It's about the story and journey of the characters and finding something powerful that we can connect all audiences to emotionally to bridge that cultural gap. Everything — from story, cast and shooting location — was about bridging cultures."
One of the bridges was to incorporate the Hawaiian legend of the Naupaka Flower and the 2,600-year-old Chinese Legend of Qixi into the main character's journey.
Both stories are about star-crossed lovers who cannot be together and are torn apart by jealous goddesses and powers beyond their control.
"Although they originated from two very different cultures and countries, it was truly amazing how much these stories have in common," Lim said.
The film is the first Chinese-Hawaiian co-production and was shot entirely in Hawaii. The title refers to the actual Pali Highway on Oahu which folk tales say is haunted.
Lim, who grew up in the US and spent more than 10 years in China, said he was inspired by the challenge of making a co-production work.
"In China, many investors and studios do not believe Chinese co-productions work and they are now focusing on domestic films only," he said. "I think that is very sad and disappointing, as China has so much to share with the world and can play a much bigger role in the world market, but they have to be willing to think internationally and be creative about it."
A graduate of Beijing Film Academy and New York Film Academy, Lim wrote and directed the feature film Slam in 2009 and the TV drama series Sophia's Diary in 2010.
For Pali Road he cast a majority of Asian actors, which caused distributors to turn away because "it didn't work" for mainstream America, Lim said.
A lot of film-making nowadays comes down to names, equations and numbers rather than what would best suit the story, but it's important not to limit oneself by gate-keepers and let audiences decide for themselves, Lim said.
"By embracing and giving diversity opportunities, you're going to end up with great new content, like Fresh off the Boat and Dr Ken," he said. "If the media start to stereotype us as nerds and bookworms then there is not much future for our kids. Being a father with young kids I don't want to be telling my kids they have a lack of opportunities or what they can or cannot do because of their ethnic background."