American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 12

President's Desk
No, I'm not going to talk about the proposed wall of a certain presidential hopeful. I'm referring instead to the
Great Wall of China, which expanded from its earliest incarnations to span a staggering 13,000 miles. For
centuries this wall protected the Chinese dynasties from invasion and helped shape a sense of Chinese cultural
superiority.
In the upcoming American-Chinese coproduction The Great Wall, Hollywood star Matt Damon scales and
rappels that wall with Jason Bourne empowerment. With an estimated budget of $135 million - the highest
ever for a movie shot completely in China - The Great Wall was directed by one of China's finest filmmakers,
Zhang Yimou, and photographed by Stuart Dryburgh, ASC, NZCS.
It's clear from the trailer and the PR surrounding the production that nothing but the best in action-adventure
is to be expected. The film promises eye-shattering visual effects and sweeping historical landscapes never photographed before.
Dryburgh decided to shoot the film largely with Arri's Alexa 65 camera, providing incredible detail and resolution.
To put it mildly, movies are popular in China. Just this year, the country's box office has already exceeded 30 billion yuan
($4.5 billion), and the country has produced around 660 films. The explosion in film production has been so dramatic that Hollywood
production companies are constantly being courted - if not simply bought lock, stock and barrel - by Chinese investors.
The Great Wall - among a number of announced action-adventure films - is the result of a continuing evolution of
Chinese-American coproductions. But, even though our visual-effects wizardry can take us over the Great Wall at a speed unequaled
in the landmark's 3,000-year history, the question remains: What happens when we land on the other side?
Well, we land in a cultural morass made all the more complex thanks to the enigmatic "human factor." After all, in addition to our wishful fantasies of superhuman abilities, films represent an expression of our shared cultural feelings, desires and ideas.
And those cultures are fundamentally different between China and America.
Our modern cultural exchange began in 1971, when the U.S. table-tennis team was invited to visit Beijing for a friendly
pingpong game. Another historical marker was reached the next year, with President Nixon's visit to China. In what is likely an apocryphal tale, Nixon misinterpreted Chairman Mao's gift of a bag containing 200g of Da Hong Pao tea, and asked why he received
such a seemingly small amount. The bag constituted half of that year's harvest and was exceedingly valuable. In fact, in today's
market, The Great Wall's budget of $135 million would buy just 108kg of Da Hong Pao tea, if available!
Indeed, "pingpong" is a fitting metaphor for our relationship with China.
One can only wonder what cultural issues we might encounter in the future. How will it work when we get past the blockbuster coproductions? How will we address a shared desire to produce movies together that represent the fabric of our disparate
cultures? What will happen to the onscreen depictions of popular American culture, including music, food, literature and film - not
to mention our philosophies and democratic system?
We have to acknowledge that our inherited cultures are vastly different, and we have to find the model in which content
can be produced that will be of interest to both continents. At stake are American cinematic touchstones such as Kramer vs. Kramer;
The Graduate; Taxi Driver; Brokeback Mountain; Selma; Dallas Buyers Club; The Big Lebowski; Good Night, and Good Luck; Erin
Brockovich - you get my drift. Our cultures are a world apart. Where the Chinese speak proudly of their long history, Americans
tend to speak proudly of the melting pot.
Zhang Yimou has made some extraordinary Chinese films, including House of Flying Daggers and Raise the Red Lantern.
He has consistently demanded our Western attention, and it is encouraging that he was chosen to head up the making of The Great
Wall. He might very well be writing the next chapter in the history that began with "pingpong diplomacy" and the story of Nixon's
Da Hong Pao tea incident. But it will probably be the often merciless judgment of our movie culture that ultimately decides whether
we are going to be able to produce movies together in the future "up the Yin Yang."

Kees van Oostrum
ASC President

12

November 2016

American Cinematographer

Photo by Jacek Laskus, ASC, PSC.

The Great Wall



American Cinematographer - November 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - November 2016

Contents
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - Intro
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 1
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 2
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - Contents
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 4
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 5
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 6
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 7
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 8
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 9
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 10
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 11
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 12
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 13
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 14
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 15
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 16
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 17
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 18
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 19
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 20
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 21
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 22
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 23
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 24
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 25
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 26
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 27
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 28
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 29
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 30
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 31
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 32
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 33
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 34
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 35
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 36
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 37
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 38
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 39
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 40
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 41
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 42
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 43
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 44
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 45
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 46
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 47
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 48
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 49
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 50
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 51
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 52
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 53
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 54
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 55
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 56
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 57
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 58
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 59
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 60
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 61
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 62
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 63
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 64
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 65
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 66
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 67
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 68
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 69
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 70
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 71
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 72
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 73
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 74
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 75
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 76
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 77
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 78
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 79
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American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 81
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American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 84
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 85
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 86
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 87
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - 88
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - Cover3
American Cinematographer - November 2016 - Cover4
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