Finally, CBC gives a voice to Iron Road.

Source: CBC

Iron Road’s love story forged on Canada’s railway

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 | 4:05 PM ET
CBC News

The first Canada-China co-production film in 22 years tells the story of the Chinese workers who came to Canada in the 1880s to build the transcontinental railway.

Iron Road is a love story with an A-list class, including Sam Neill, Peter O’Toole, Sun Li and Canadian actor Luke MacFarlane.

A 95-minute feature film version of the movie opens Tuesday in Toronto for limited release across the country. A two-part mini-series of the story will air on CBC beginning Aug. 9.

Director David Wu said Iron Road is a “touching story of East meets West,” but also presents a little-known slice of Canadian history.

“When you walk on the railway or travel on the train … you can really feel that there is blood sweat and tears in every single mile from every railroad worker – if they’re red or white or yellow,” Wu said in an interview Tuesday with CBC News.

Based on the 2001 opera Iron Road, the film portrays the hard and dangerous lives of Chinese workers who came to Canada.

“The plot is about a Chinese girl called Little Tiger. Little Tiger sounds like a boy’s name because she dresses as a boy to survive in an alpha male society and then she decides to travel and work on building the railroad for $1 a day. But mostly, she just wants to find her lost father who everybody believes to be dead,” said Wu, a Chinese Canadian who directed Merlin’s Apprentice and Son of the Dragon.

Little Tiger, played by Li, a Shanghai actress who also starred in Fearless, falls for the son of the railroad contractor, played by MacFarlane.

“It’s an international language,” Wu says of love stories. “For me, I always loved a love story. When I grew up favourites [were] Love Story and Dr. Zhivago. I loved [stories] in war-torn and difficult times, that’s my favourite way to tell a love story.”

Wu said he is a veteran of Chinese co-productions — and is familiar with difficulties of translating multiple times for cast and crew who speak English, Cantonese and Mandarin.

That was one of the big challenges of shooting Iron Road, which featured 30 days of production in mainland China, followed by 10 days in British Columbia.

Wu said he played up his own cross-cultural ties in his first meeting with producers Anne Tait and Barry Pearson.

“When I read the script, I was desperate to do this movie,” Wu said. “I told them ‘In Canada there is only one guy could make this movie because I speak Chinese — both Mandarin and Cantonese — and English. I said if you hire me, I will save you a lot of time, I will come in right on the budget.'”

The $10-million budget makes the film a big one by Canadian standards.

The film premiered in June at a fundraiser in support of The Foundation to Commemorate the Chinese Railroad Workers in Canada at York University, Toronto.

It opens Tuesday at Toronto’s Royal Cinema. The film has independent distribution in Canada, and will show at cinemas such as the Fifth Avenue in Vancouver, the Plaza in Calgary and the Princess Twin Cinema in Waterloo, Ont., over the next two weeks.

It will screen on CBC as a two-part miniseries on Aug. 9 and 16.