Salon in for Macau composer biopic

'Rush project' to premiere in time for handover anniversary

BEIJING -- Hong Kong-based Salon Films is prepping a movie about the childhood of revolutionary era composer Xian Xingai to mark the 10th anniversary of the return of his birthplace, Macau, to Chinese control.

Most famous for his 1939 "Yellow River Cantata," calling for Chinese to take up arms against Japan during the Second Sino-Japanese War -- Xian's short but brilliant career also featured works such as "Saving the Nation" and "Non-Resistance the Only Fear."

But Salon chairman Fred Wang said that the 20 million yuan ($2.9 million) "rush project," due to be released by the end of the year, will focus on Xian's connection to Macau, the former Portuguese colony and gambling hub that reverted to Chinese control in 1999.

"Our idea is not to talk about Xian and the Japanese war, but to focus on the true story of the life of a poor boy of as he learns his musical talent in Macau," Wang said, adding that he hopes to release the film in time for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on Oct. 1.

China has produced several films and TV series about Xian's place in the revolutionary canon in the past, but the Salon film will distinguish itself by focusing on Xian's life from age 3-15, before he was a famous musician. "What happened after Macau is not our business," Wang said.

The film's director, Li Qiankuan, chairman of the state-run China Film Assn., is perhaps best known to Chinese for his China Central Television movie channel series "The Korean War," produced by Lawrence Kuhn, the official English-language biographer of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

"The Musician" will feature a score by Shu Nan, who will work closely with the Macau Youth Symphony Orchestra, and star Taiwanese actress and singer Vivian Hsu Ruo Xuan ("If You Are the One"), Chinese actor Aloys Chen Kun (best actor for "The Knot" at Taiwan's Golden Rooster awards in 2007) and Hong Kong actor Ng Man Tat ("Kung Fu Dunk").

Born in Macau in 1905 and taught music by a colonial Portuguese, Xian studied at the Paris Conservatory before returning to China in 1935 to score the film versions of "Thunderstorm" and "Sunrise," the widely-read Chinese social realist works of the revolutionary playwright Cao Yu.

Xian then went to Yan'an, where legend has it he worked on the lone piano at Mao Zedong's communist base to compose the full-length documentary "Yan'an and the Eighth Route Army," a work he finished in 1940 in Moscow, where he died five years later of tuberculosis.