Busan Closing Film Director Talks Putting a New Spin on Traditional Chinese Drama

Courtesy of Busan International Film Festival
'Mountain Cry'

'Mountain Cry's' Larry Yang says his U.S. background and working with Hollywood filmmakers can add new approaches to the Chinese film industry.

The 20th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) closes on Saturday with the world premiere of Chinese period drama Mountain Cry.

While the film fits into the realist genre and has traditional rural settings, emerging young writer-director Larry Yang has been noted for bringing a novel spin to Chinese cinema with his American upbringing.

"We selected Mountain Cry, like other titles in our lineup, as our closing film because it showed promising potential for creating new trends in the global film industry," said festival director Lee Yong-kwan.

Mountain Cry is about a love triangle in a claustrophobic rural village during the 1980s. Based on the prize-winning novel by Ge Shui-ping, Mountain Cry, moreover, exemplifies the regional trend of adapting books, online and stage works. BIFF even launched a trading zone for such "intellectual property" content at the Asian Film Market.

Yang says he opted to tell the post-Cultural Revolution era story from a different perspective, choosing to work with Hollywood cinematographer Patrick Murguia (The Frozen Ground starring Nicholas Cage).

"There are many realist films set in rural [post-Cultural Revolution] China. But I wanted to tackle the traditional rural drama in a different way from those gray hued films," said Yang.

"The story itself was very foreign for me, since I did not live through those times and also because of my foreign background," said the New Yorker who returned to China for graduate work at the Beijing Film Academy. "I believe my unfamiliarity was a great advantage because I had a different view of things. Working with a Hollywood cinematographer who was also new to rural China helped capture the story from a fresh perspective as well."

Yang wants to continue bringing new narratives to the ever-evolving Chinese film industry.

"The Chinese film market has been changing drastically, as have local filmmaking styles and audience tastes," he said. "It's always a challenge to think about what the audience wants and how I will tell a story as a filmmaker, but I believe it's important to think about how viewers today will view a story."

The script, penned by Yang, won the Best Commercial Potential Award at the Beijing International Film Festival's pitching event. Chinese production giant Hairun Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures Asia backed the project, while Fortissimo Films is handling international sales.