How a Chinese story gets told in an int’l way
The new film, “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” is a cross-cultural hybrid in many aspects: Both producer Wendi Deng Murdoch and director Wayne Wang are Chinese-Americans; the cast includes Chinese actress Li Bingbing, South Korean actress Gianna Jun, and Australian actor Hugh Jackman; they speak either English or Mandarin or both in the film.
However, behind such a strong international lineup is an ancient Chinese story. Inspired by the same-title novel written by Lisa See (another Chinese-American), “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” tells a special, lifetime friendship between two women living in the androcentric 19th-century China.
In the film, Snow Flower and Lily, played by Gianna Jun and Li Bingbing respectively, communicate with each other by writing a secret language on silk fans. In real life, the secret language, known in Chinese as nv shu – women’s language – has existed for thousands of years. Some Chinese women, mostly living in the central Chinese province of Hunan, wrote almost unrecognizable characters to share emotions with their confidants.
When Wendi Deng read Lisa See’s novel four years ago, it struck a chord with her. “Although the story is about two Chinese women, the theme is universal. It can resonate with the world,” Deng said on June 12, 2011 on the sidelines of the 14th Shanghai International Film Festival.