Toronto’s “The Star” reviews Iron Road & tells of Iron Road’s debut dates on CBC
Here is the first review of the mini-series of Iron Road by a Canadian press, based in Toronto, “The Star.” At the end of the article tells when mini-series will be aired on CBC.
Iron Road goes to dark past
Shakespearean love story stars Sun Li and Peter O’Toole
Jun 12, 2009 04:30 AM
For Chinese railroad workers and early migrants to Canada, the new movie Iron Road rivals in significance to what The Pianist means to Jews living with memories after the persecutions during World War II – both dramas give a face to those nameless and voiceless who perished en masse in history.
Premiering at York University’s Price Family Cinema Sunday, Iron Road does that in a Shakespearian fashion – through the romance between a young Chinese woman, Little Tiger, who, disguised as a boy, goes in search of her railroad-worker father in British Columbia a Canadian playboy James Nichol, whose father runs a company that builds railroad.
The movie – with a budget of more than $10 million and an international cast that includes American stars Peter O’Toole and Sam Neil, Canada’s own Luke MacFarlane and Charlotte Sullivan, and China’s Sun Li and Tony Leung Ka Fai – is the first big based on that dark era of Chinese-Canadian history at the turn of the late 18th century.
The events shamed Canada and forced Ottawa to issue redress and an apology to the effected community in Parliament in 2006.
The movie title, a literal translation of “railroad” from Chinese into English, symbolizes the interface of the underdog lured by the “Gold Mountain” dream who ends up abused and exploited as cheap labour. The antagonist is a growing Canada in need of labourers to do the dangerous job of building a transcontinental railroad.
“It’s an amazing story of bravery and courage and a cross-cultural love story set against historical facts that many people do not know about,” says producer Anne Tait.
“It touches the audience’s heart and helps them go through the experience. And you do that through stories, especially love stories that pinpoints the dilemma of cross-cultural connections. That’s the way to show attraction and problems.”
The crew spent 31 days filming in “Chinawood,” Hengdian World Studios, five hours from Shanghai. They also shot for 10 days across in Kamloops, Kelowna and Lynn Canyon, B.C. The beautiful natural landscapes are juxtaposed with human hardships – constant verbal abuses, inhumane living conditions, life-threatening jobs to set explosions to break ground for the rails and isolation from families and loved ones.
Those human tragedies are painted subtly, with the close-ups of callused hands driving the spikes to secure the rails and the panning across the grave markers dotted along the railroads to signal the Chinese lives lost in the process.
The hostile chants – “Chinamen” and “We don’t want you here. Go home!” – that greeted the railroad workers are haunting.
Tait, a Toronto-based producer and casting director, said she was initially inspired to make the movie by the Chan Ka Nin opera of the same title eight years ago. The music and lyrics imprinted in her mind’s eyes “an image of a Chinese woman disguised as a guy setting dynamites in the rock cliff.” She called her friend, scriptwriter Barry Pearson, to discuss a film story. Writer Raymond Storey was later brought in.
But the filming wasn’t possible until May 2007 with the feature’s executive producers Arnie Zipursky, Tiger Hu and Han Sanping lined up, as well as funding from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Canadian Television Fund, Film Initiative British Columbia, Ontario Media Development Corp., Astral Media, Cogeco Cable Fund and Shaw Rocket Fund.
So, is the movie a chick flick?
“Yes, a bit,” said Tait with a chuckle. “But an epic, historical chick flick.”
Tickets for the June 14 premiere and fundraiser are $88 and $100, available at www.yorku.ca/perform or by calling 416-736-5888. There will be a screening July 21 at Royal Cinema at 608 College St. A two-part miniseries of the TV-adopted version of the movie will be aired on CBC Aug. 9 and 16.