AIGUO YING - CO-AUTHOR's STATEMENT
When Dan asked me to collaborate with him on a movie script about a Chinese woman and a western man, I immediately agreed. Thus the journey began. It was not only Rulan’s journey back to her home village, to her root, to her past and her future, but also a journey for Adam to discover his love, maturity and responsibility as a grown-up man. It was also a journey for Dan and me to reveal and find ourselves and our friends, family members in the process of writing the script.
Dan and I clicked almost in every department during the collaboration.
Ever since the publication of my first novel in China, I’ve been working on my second novel, which actually overlaps a little with the storyline presented in Chinese Lesson 28. To me, female protagonists are always more intriguing, more revealing, and more note-worthy. When we look at a well-educated oriental woman living in a western world, the contrast of ideas, the conflict of cultures and the convergence of minds, weaved together, always present in-depth, influential stories and themes.
So many other characters are drawn from real life in the script, especially modern day Chinese towns and villages.
For example, Rulan’s sister-in-law had to go through several late-stage abortions in order to get a boy
as they already have a baby girl.
My own youngest aunt did exactly the same and finally gave birth to her son when she was almost forty and her daughter
was ready to apply for college.
When readers think the abortions are too cruel to be included in the script, I tend to defend it,
since it was and still is the reality I know and live with. I myself as an overseas Chinese student who now can’t dream about
going back to China to live any longer, have done things, had thoughts, visited places just as Rulan did. We all miss the past,
long for the future and strive to live the present. People in this movie are just like us.
Locations, locations and locations. I can never write or talk too much about New York City as it has become my home city where I have been living and working for longer than anywhere else. I took my parents to visit the Yellow Mountains area in 2004. The beauty of the mountains, the days spent with my family and the quest for finding life's meaning have always accompanied me ever since that trip.
After all, I was in Anhui province (in the Yellow Mountains region) for eight years and thus this is, my tribute to a second hometown.
China has become a symbol for overseas people like me. Whether we can go back or not, it is a constant and affectionate subject.
I firmly believe the shooting of the movie will be another great journey for all people involved in the project. To some degree, it’s a universal story with omnipresent characters and themes people can relate to and connect. I can’t wait to see it succeed with a big and long influence on a wide audience.
DAN THORENS - DIRECTOR / CO-AUTHOR'S STATEMENT
"28" is much more than a number.
Yes it's Rulan Jiang's 28th lesson attempting to teach Adam, her private slacker student, a couple of complete sentences in Chinese to prepare for his trip to China 6.
Yes she's just turned 28 and is considered a" Leftover Woman" in China since the 1970's meaning they may be regarded as too independent and not necessarily compatible with the traditional role of wife and mother if they devote much of their time to their careers. The real danger is ignorance and prejudice, by focusing on the socially fabricated issue, we ignore the real social issue, the ‘surplus’ men in China.
But "28" is first and foremost a story about 2 human beings who, despite their flaws and egos, find a way to help each other out.
"28" has all the essential ingredients to make us feel more human in the face of adversity and loss. These are universal emotions and have no nationality.
Rulan must constantly battle the odds, first for
The Masters in Communication she thought would allow her to save enough money to build a school in her village and give back to her family was useless as she winds up teaching private Chinese Lessons and loses her main source of income.
Her job as translator back in China could disappear any day as another woman threatens to take her place.
After reuniting with her family she realize the parents she grew up loving, have adopted her.
"28" is also about integrity in the face of adversity and the sense of "Xiao" that gets lost as young Chinese flock to the cities and become self absorbed, a trait commonly cultivated in the West.
28" brings 2 cultures together, making sense of family values and the importance of the Universal value of honoring one's parents.
The West, and now just as much the East, needs to be reminded of where we're coming from to better understand where we ought to go.
A more humane society, where our differences in culture and thinking become the creative force that builds our future on earth.
A common "Belief System" : That is the nature and purpose of Rulan and Adam's improbable "conne'X'ion".
Asia is my favorite part in the world to go to. The culture, the food, the mindset, the capacity to improvise and appreciate life in the present truly shows the human spirit at its best.
Western (and I imagine Eastern) Media portray each other in a very stereotypical way.
"28" brings authenticity way beyond mere tourism. You will experience China. A chinese crowd will experience Western mentality.
The secret recipe lies in the authentic exchanges between the two protagonists and their respective families and cultures thanks to my co-author's deep cultural experiences, having been raised in a small village in China.
A central inspiration for "28" came from my female Chinese teacher, whose accent led me to misinterpret things with often hilarious results. Tears of laughter flowed between us on many occasions due to the language gap. I was instinctively inspired to write scenes based on these misunderstandings. I love to co-write so I started searching for the right person to take this to the next level and created a Craig’s list ad. I met Aiguo Ying and we have developed a close working relationship.
Our story centers on Rulan Jiang, a young smart woman from a poor village in China and trying to find a path through life in modern western civilization. I’ve always admired the courage Chinese students have to come to such a competitive country, having to master a strange language and dealing with world views so different than their own, often getting a stipend that allows them to barley live in the city. Adam, the male protagonist's journey is one I relate to entirely, having gone through the culture shock in 1993, with a first visit to Asia via Japan China and Vietnam. The story is also filled with humor, based on everyday occurrences that take on larger meaning in a greater context. This film caters to both Chinese and western audiences.
I'm also a big fan of today’s Chinese independent cinema, from Ang Lee's "Eat Drink Man Woman" to Wan Kar Wai’s “Happy Together” or “In the mood for love” as much as epic films like Zhang Yimou’s “House of Flying Daggers”. One shows the raw side of a burgeoning Chinese middle class and desperate youth influenced by the west, the other a polished version of the magical times when Emperors ruled and martial Ninjas leaped over rooftops to assassinate with impunity. I wanted the realism of one combined with the fable aspect of the other. "28" is uplifting, bringing an unexpected western world’s point of view inside rural China.
The script tells of the destiny of 2 individuals apparently opposed, who wind up being the perfect fit for one another. It stems from my belief that a people’s differences can be a great motivational and binding force. I have found that other cultures can help us evolve, find our center even, our sense of purpose by helping us think outside our comfort zone and that life is a social experiment with no frontiers.