A producer and promoter for Wu Tianming’s posthumous film "Song of the Phoenix" has kneeled down in an online video, begging theater owners for more showtime for the critically-applauded film.
The incident reflects the harsh reality for Chinese art-house films.
Fang Li, a producer of the film, kneeled down in an online broadcast, crying and begging, "I hope everyone can help promote ’Song of the Phoenix’ on your social networking accounts. And if you (theater managers) can arrange a primetime screening this weekend, I’m willing to kneel down for you. To all the friends who help us, I love you, I can do anything."
Wu Tianming, a leading man in the Chinese film industry’s fourth generation of filmmakers, had finished his last film entitled "Song of the Phoenix" before his death but never had a chance to see it released. He died on March 4, 2014 from a heart attack at the age of 74, just one month after he finished the editing for "Song of the Phoenix," which tells the story of the friendship between two suona horn (a Chinese woodwind musical instrument) artists from two separate generations.
According to Wu Yanyan, daughter of Wu Tianming, the lack of promotion funds led to the shelving of the film after her father died. In the past two years, "Song of the Phoenix" eventually secured financial support from various "selfless" filmmakers, she said in a meet-and-greet event after an advance screening.
"Song of the Phoenix" has not been a commercial blockbuster since its debut on May 6, securing only one percent of all films’ screening arrangements throughout the country. It received great reviews from moviegoers and critics, and its score on China’s movie rating site Douban.com is 8.4/10. However, the rival Hollywood superhero flick "Captain America: Civil War" now dominates the market and "Song of the Phoenix" just grossed around 4 million yuan in a week.
"I don’t expect big box office earnings for this film. I just hope more people can see Wu Tianming’s last masterpiece," Fang said in his webcast last night. "You (theater managers) can earn big money fifty weekends out of the year -- so just for this weekend, please increase our screening time. For director Wu, for audience. This is our last chance. This is a Chinese film, this is Chinese culture. People don’t just live for money."
Wu was respected for his successful films, which included the award-winning "Old Well" and "The King of Masks," as well as his teaching and nurturing of the fifth generation of Chinese filmmakers, such as Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, Huang Jianxin and more. Even Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese sent his heartfelt tribute to the master. "Wu Tianming was a true giant of cinema," said Scorsese in a promotional video.