Yang Zi, director of My Other Home (COURTESY OF HAIRUN MOVIE & TV PRODUCTION CO.)
From a faceless Brooklyn boy who was the sixth among seven siblings, Stephon Marbury achieved fame due to his prowess as a basketball player. From the NBA, he switched gears in 2010 to pursue his career in China, winning three Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) championships with Beijing Ducks and being hailed as the greatest foreign player ever to play in the CBA. A Chinese green card holder, he has also been honored by the Beijing authorities as one of the Top 10 Model Citizens for his philanthropic work in China. The 40-year-old's biopic, My Other Home, directed by Chinese filmmaker Yang Zi, will be hitting the screens on August 4 with Marbury playing himself in the film. Before the premiere of the film, Yang talked to Beijing Review reporter Lu Yan about the maverick movie that combines both Chinese and foreign elements.
Beijing Review: You also wrote the screenplay for My Other Home. How did you get the idea for the film?
Yang Zi: Stephon Marbury has won phenomenal victories for Beijing's basketball team and it's a story worth telling on the silver screen.
The project was supported by the Beijing Municipal Government and Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports and funded by Hairun Movie & TV Production Co. At first, they considered using a Hollywood scriptwriter since it's a story about a foreigner, thinking it might make the film more international. But then they realized that foreign scriptwriters may not have a good understanding of a story unfolding in China, or the cultural differences Marbury faced. So they found me, a Chinese scriptwriter who had lived abroad.
Initially, I worked as a consultant, but as I dug deeper into the story, I was touched by it and put forward some ideas of my own. I was then asked to write the first draft, which met the needs of the production team and producers.
In this sense, the film has been created by multiple parties who want to show the audience, not just basketball fans, a story of sacrifice, teamwork and friendship, and a story of a group of people dealing with difficulties on their way to realizing their dream.
How did you hit upon the different English and Chinese titles?
My Other Home came from Marbury. It's to the point since the film is about him going to an exotic land to fight for his dream. The original Chinese title was A New Yorker in Beijing but when we finished the film, we realized the story is not entirely about this one basketball player. The Marbury in the final Chinese title I Am Marbury represents sportsmanship, persistence and team spirit. When a man's career hits rock bottom, how does he recover and climb up to the top again? This is what we want to tell the audience.
Sports films are not mainstream in China, so why did you choose such a topic?
It is a shame that sports films are not a mainstream theme in China. In foreign countries, in Hollywood, it is a mature theme. Such films are screened every year and have a constant audience. People can easily relate to sportsmanship. Different from other films, sports films are usually based on real people and real stories. Sports personalities have unique experiences and strengths which make them shine. So I think sports films should be promoted.
As filmmakers, our priority is not to cater to the market. We think that it is our obligation to make such films, and we should do the best we can. Through My Other Home, we hope the audience will know more about such a theme and be moved by it. Hopefully, in this way more sports films will be made.
Stephon Marbury in a basketball game (COURTESY OF HAIRUN MOVIE & TV PRODUCTION CO.)
How do you like Marbury playing the lead in a Chinese film?
This is his first film. He didn't have much acting experience, so there was a risk in putting him in the lead. But who else could have played Marbury? Even if we had used another foreign actor, he wouldn't have had the experience of living in China, or loving China, he could only act it out.
But Marbury expressed his real feelings and his attachment to Beijing instinctively. Besides, his basketball skills are irreplaceable, so he was the best choice. Although acting is not his forte, we could help him with that, whereas we couldn't help other actors portray Marbury's love for China. The audience will not buy fake emotions.
When Marbury was communicating with other actors, we just let the camera quietly shoot what they were doing. That was the real Marbury, the one we want to show to the audience.
There is no love interest in the film. Do you think that will make it less appealing for some viewers?
Marbury is happily married and a very responsible husband. His greatest support while working in a foreign land comes from his family—his mother, wife and kids. They are his fountain of strength. He never dated anyone in Beijing and we can't make up such a story. We don't need any romance since Marbury's story is about a different kind of love, such as friendship and love for his career.
What is the most attractive thing about the film?
As I said, love. Marbury owes his success to it. He loves Beijing and his fans and is willing to give them all he has. It means shouldering more responsibility. There are narratives about his relationship with his teammates, his fatherly coach. The film is not just about Marbury or a replay of his triumphs but the story of how a group of men pursued their dreams.
A poster of My Other Home
What do you think about the Chinese film industry?
I think the good times are about to come, or have already come. In the past, China's movie market encountered a boom bubble with high box-office success. Films with certain themes were considered money-spinners and that led to a lack of originality.
Luckily, this trend has faded as there are demands for deeper, people-oriented films that make you think. Producers have started to return to films with valuable content. I am surprised by the number of young directors who are making good films and I'm proud to be one of them. I hope such directors can bring to the market films with a personal style and both commercial and artistic value.
Should Chinese films go global?
It is inevitable that Chinese films will go global. Although the Chinese audience is our main target, we should not work behind closed doors and make films only for our own people. Going global will show if our films can have a place in the international arena and attract foreign investment.
Movies that represent our strengths, our beliefs and our values should be brought to the rest of the world for the global audience to appreciate the level we have already reached, the ideas we want to present.
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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