It’s understandable that the film Meiduo is receiving such attention. Four nominations at the Shanghai International Film Festival (Best Film, Best New Director, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress for Zhuo Cuo Wang) confirm this as the kind of new film which the public and critics desire. The physical and emotional journey of the story’s central character illustrates the desire to offer help and the unintentional ignorance that may accompany it.
Shot in the challenging yet beautiful land of Tibet, the arduous filming process laid great responsibility on the shoulders of consummate producer Guo Guo. While still finishing the post production of the popular Chinese TV series Be With You, Guo took on the producer’s position for Meiduo and its international coordination between Chinese and American filmmakers involved in this production.
Equal in its importance to the story was the way in which the people and culture of Tibet were depicted in the context of the story. Producer Guo Guo and director Guan Xi were adamant not only about the authenticity of the story’s setting but that it be presented in a way which evolves alongside the odyssey of the film’s central character. For two months, producer and director travelled through Tibet scouting locations. In this process of constant movement, sharing meals and ideas, the duo attained a deeper understanding of the “roof of the world.”
Guo Guo states, “We discussed how to invert all the knowledge Guan Xi had of the Tibetan culture into the film due to her twenty visits there. Our goal was to film this piece from the perspective of an outsider and gradually work into the native Tibetan’s perspective.” This is inherent in the very DNA of the filming process as much of the crew was brought over from the United States for filming. Her fluency in multiple languages including English once again made Guo Guo a major asset to the realization of this film. The behind-the-scenes of making Meiduo is as riveting as the story itself.
Guo Guo informs, “I was working with an international team who didn’t speak the language and needed extra care; not only to take care of their work visa situation but also their well-being in an area that usually does not allow non-Chinese citizens in. We were shooting in extremely rural areas in which the people living there had never even heard of the concept of ‘film.’ Not only that, the safety of everyone was imperative when we were shooting overseas in an area of Lebanon with literal war zones.
During the shoot in Tripoli, I could hear the bombs and gunshots sounds two blocks away from us. But through it all, we managed to make a beautiful piece and I hope of everyone will enjoy the films as we do.”
Meiduo the film is based on the best-selling Chinese novel Butter Lamp. Well known and speaking to a generation of the public in China because it is based on the actual journey to Tibet of the author, this story is a search for one’s soul even when you might think you already know it. As a fan of the book and director Guan Xi’s films, Guo Guo declares that producing this film was an opportunity for her to bring this important tale to an even wider audience.
Though American audiences are increasingly intrigued by non-English films like the 2020 Academy Award Winner for Best Film Parasite, Guo Guo concedes, “A lot of Chinese films don’t have a clear channel for presenting our productions to the world in the same way as Hollywood films. I’m hopeful that people in the U.S. will see Meiduo and its message will speak to them. I must say, the process of making this film will last with me forever. I feel like I aged ten years during it but I made lifelong friends in the process and I’m excited to work with these people again.”
Writer: Arlen Gann