Big-budget period action film “The Sand Murmurs” is set to start production in China’s remote region of Xinjiang later this month.
The film is the tale of a soldier and an enemy nobleman brought together after a once-in-a-century sandstorm. After braving a near-death experience together, the pair find common purpose despite their differences. They also need to work together to find their way out across 800km of desert.
The picture is directed by Wu Youyin as an adaptation of his novel of the same title. Wu previously wrote and directed “Till The End of the World,” which released in 2018.
Deploying a budget of some $40 million, the new picture is produced by Eastern Grace Film. The company has interests in production, promotion and distribution and a stated mission of promoting Chinese culture and beauty to the world.
The film’s cast is headed by Deng Chao (“Shadow,” “The Mermaid”), Rong Zishan (“Mozart From Space,” “The Bad Kids”) and Yang Zishan (2021 Cannes film “Ripples of Life,” “Walking Past the Future,” “Till The End of the World”). Further casting details are expected to be announced at an event during the Shanghai International Film Festival, which kicks off on Friday.
Production will begin on June 24, and run for some three months out of Karamay City, on the northwestern edge of the Junggar Basin and close to the ancient Silk Road between Asia and Europe. Karamay is home to World Devil City, an area of extraordinary geological landforms, and adjacent to other scenic spots including the Baiyang River Grand Canyon, Eric Lake and Populus Euphratica Forest. Filming resources will be serviced by Ji’s Tribe Film and Television City and Karamay’s Wuerhe Film and Television City.
The producers say that the finished film will promote the beauty of Xinjiang, expand its artistic reputation and regional recognition, and create a new business card for Wuerhe’s tourist business. Production of the movie is expected to involve in-depth cooperation with the local government, development of scenic spots for future film and TV use and lead to lasting cultural, social and economic benefits.
A release date of mid-2024 has been penciled in, but no international sales agent has yet been attached.
It is unclear whether star casting, story and natural beauty can overcome the difficulty of selling Xinjiang to Western audiences.
The Chinese government has been criticized on human rights grounds by the United Nations and several Western governments for its development, population control and religious policies in the Uyghur Muslim-dominated region. Beijing denies there is abuse, but U.S. officials and leading figures in other democracies have described activities in Xinjiang as a “genocide.”
The 2020 Disney movie “Mulan” came under fire for filming partly in Xinjiang and for thanking the Xinjiang authorities in the movie’s credits. Chinese authorities banned their major media outlets from writing about the film in order to avoid bringing attention in China to the mounting overseas criticism.
The entertainment industry was caught up again the following year. The Chinese government mobilized film and TV celebrities to hit back at Western calls for boycotts of Xinjiang-produced cotton.
(Pictured: Deng Chao)