Shooting completed on first post-pandemic China-UK co-produced film
Published: Oct 27, 2021 07:36 PM

The UK-based shooting of UNTAMED, a film co-produced by China’s Juben Pictures and the UK’s Sinner Films, was recently completed at Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, England on October 15. 

It is the first official China-UK co-production film to be shot since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and is also part of the “Collaborative China” section in the "All Under One Moon 2021" online campaign presented by the China National Tourist Office, London.

The film is based on the real-life story of Zhu Shenghao, the first person who translated almost the complete works of Shakespeare into Chinese. It interweaves the stories of three young men, in 16th century England, 1930s Shanghai, and contemporary China, as they struggle to pursue their dreams against all odds. The three stories are thematically connected by Shakespeare’s famous comedy, The Taming of the Shrew

At a virtual wrap ceremony for UNTAMED on October 22, Wang Qiang, chairman of Juben Pictures, said that making a film about literature is a challenge. “Nearly a century ago, Zhu translated Shakespeare's works into Chinese with precision and elegance, like the builder of the Babel Tower, linking people who do not understand each other's language. Making this film follows in Zhu's footsteps and passes the baton about communication, understanding for China and the rest of the world.”

Producer Zhu Li said it is a film about living life on your own terms, not those imposed by those around you. She said she hoped that through this cooperation, more Sino-British co-production projects might be stimulated, and she also hoped that this work can contribute to mutual understanding between Chinese and British people. 

Emmy-nominated director Justin Chadwick said that making the film has been a memorable experience, with the international teams from China, the UK, the US and Europe working together amid the pressure of the pandemic to bring this complex story to life. He said the film has also led him to re-examine his perception of Shakespeare, as well as to explore the little-known story of Shakespeare’s wife and present a richer and livelier portrayal of the characters.

UK screenwriter David Murdoch said he was deeply impressed by Zhu Shenghao's story when he first heard about it years ago and felt that he had to tell this story of courage and perseverance for people in the UK and around the world. 

Zhu Shenghao devoted himself to translation during his short lifetime. He had translated 31 Shakespeare plays before he died at an early age partly due to overwork. His Chinese translation edition is regarded as the most complete, high-quality and widely acclaimed version of Shakespeare's works in China. It was praised by renowned dramatist Cao Yu as an "extraordinary achievement."  

The film was supported by Zhu Shenghao's hometown of Jiaxing in East China’s Zhejiang Province and his family. Zhu Shenghao's son, Zhu Shanggang, said in a pre-recorded video that 80 years ago, as a translator of Shakespeare's plays, his father built a bridge for the Chinese people to understand English literature. “Eighty years later, which also coincides with the 110th anniversary of my father's birth, UNTAMED will introduce Chinese culture and the spirit of Chinese people to British audiences through film.”

The shooting location for the film was the 1,000-year-old Haddon Hall, the most intact Tudor-style manor in England, where many films such as Jane Eyre, Elizabeth and Pride and Prejudice have been shot. The owner of Haddon Hall, Lady Edward Manners, said that she hopes the film will inspire more people in China and the UK to engage in cultural exchange and that it will improve communication between the two countries.

Minister-Counselor Yu Peng of the Chinese Embassy in the UK said that UNTAMED fully embodies the spirit of exchange and mutual learning between the two countries and will certainly live up to its mission of bringing the Chinese and British people closer together and enhancing China-UK relations. “The successful completion of this film provides an example of continued cooperation between the two countries in arts and culture during the post-pandemic period.”

The film is currently in the editing phase at leading UK post-production company Final Cut. It is expected to be released in 2022.