Walk on the wild side

By Xu Fan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-05-12 08:49:46

Walk on the wild side

Born in China, the upcoming Disneynature feature directed by Lu Chuan, focuses on the lives of endangered animals in China.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Celebrated director Lu Chuan has gained a new perspective on the animal kingdom while working on a coproduction with Walt Disney Studios in China, he tells Xu Fan.

Lu Chuan has been making films for the past 17 years but the changes he has encountered at work in the last few years have been huge.

The Chinese director now finds himself speaking English more frequently, leading members of international filmmaking units and even supervising shoots in China's remote areas from Beijing.

Hailed as one of the best directors of his generation, Lu's recent experiences can be attributed to one thing-an upcoming Disneynature feature called Born in China, which is set to hit mainland theaters in the second week of August.

The film is being made jointly by Disneynature, a film label of Walt Disney Studios and Lu's Chinese film studio.

The Sino-US production will be released in China ahead of its 2017 world debut.

Typically, foreign films in China are released either simultaneously with the rest of the world, or a few days after their global release.

The film covers the lives of five animal families in China-snow leopards, giant pandas, snub-nosed monkeys, Tibetan antelopes and red-crowned cranes.

Lu's international camera units-from Germany, Britain and the United States-went deep into the animals' habitats and filmed for 18 months.

"It's my first English-language film, and it was a great opportunity to see how the world's top wildlife camera crews work," Lu, 45, tells China Daily over phone.

Although the trailer of the film makes it appear like a documentary, Lu says it is actually a "narrative feature".

"We have a script which focuses on the stories of the animal families," he says.

Interestingly, Lu, originally had a more ambitious plan for the film.

China is home to more than 120 endangered wildlife species, and Lu had initially selected 10 for the film. But his list was cropped and among the animals left out was the Asian elephant as it is found in India as well.

For the director, Born in China is not his first animal-themed film.

His award-winning Kekexili: Mountain Patrol (2004) is based on a volunteer patrol that tries to protect endangered Tibetan antelopes from poachers.

But the Disneynature film gave him a new understanding of the craft and filmmaking management.

He found that the main priority of the five teams of photographers, who were each assigned one species, was "not to disturb the animals or the locations".

"Each team had up to 20 people. But, after they completed preparations for the shoot, only the photographer and an assistant would stay on in the wild, with the rest leaving the area," says Lu.

"The cameramen would transmit footage every two or three days if they got some interesting moments. But the editing was a torture," he adds.

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