Mika Kaurismäki finishes shooting Master Cheng in Finland
by Marta Bałaga
- The noted Finnish filmmaker follows up his historical drama The Girl King with a gentle story about a Chinese chef coming to Lapland, which will wrap after an additional shoot in China
Master Cheng, one of the first Finnish-Chinese co-productions, has wrapped filming in Lapland, including in the town of Sodankylä, where in 1986 Mika Kaurismäki co-founded the legendary Midnight Sun Film Festival alongside his brother Aki.
“Our screenwriter, Hannu Oravisto, had quite a different story in mind, but the basic idea was to make a film about Chinese people coming to Finland. When I read it, I decided it needed to be Lapland,” the director explains to Cineuropa. “It’s a great place for two cultures to meet, precisely because it’s so isolated. There, when you meet people, you really need to face them.”
Aided by his regular actors Kari Väänänen and Vesa-Matti Loiri in the supporting roles, as well as Anna-Maija Tuokko in the lead, Kaurismäki tells the story of a restaurant owner (played by award-winning stage actor Chu Pak-hong) travelling with his young son to a remote village in Finland to visit a friend, following a personal tragedy. But instead of focusing on negativity and culture clashes, the Finnish director decided to, as he puts it, “show globalisation in a positive way”.
“Sure, there are some comic situations stemming from all of the cultural misunderstandings, but that’s not the main point. I have been going to Lapland for many years, and last Christmas, we went to a really remote spot. It was full of Chinese people. People are not afraid of America or Trump, but they are afraid of China, which is the biggest powerhouse in the world right now. I am trying to show that we should all learn how to live together.”
Aimed at the fast-growing Chinese market, Master Cheng – the details of which were recently unveiled at the Toronto International Film Festival – promises to reach beyond local audiences, especially thanks to its feel-good storyline. “I wouldn’t be able to make a film if I didn’t like my main characters,” says Kaurismäki. “And these ones are likeable, even though their backstory is quite harsh. Vesa and Kari live in Lapland. They fit in within the scenery, but for the Chinese people, it was quite a shock to arrive there. Still, there was this mutual understanding that developed on set, and they adapted quite quickly. Just like in the film, you know?”
Produced by Marianna Films in cooperation with China’s QianJi Culture Co Ltd Hangzhou, with the help of the Lapland Communications and Marketing Office and the Lapland Film Commission, Master Cheng is being distributed by SF Studios and will reach local theatres in 2019. The international sales are being handled by The Yellow Affair, while the Finnish TV rights have been bought by YLE. The movie is being supported by the Finnish Film Foundation and the Nordisk Film & TV Fond.
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