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Film gives stars the space to shine

Actress delivers a stellar performance in Russian movie shot aboard the ISS, Xu Fan reports.

By Xu Fan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-22 06:52

Actress Yulia Peresild (center) meets with Chinese science popularizers in Beijing on March 12. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Du Liang, the Chinese producer of the film, tells China Daily that he had heard about the movie when it was still in the initial development phase.

"I had the chance to read the script before filming began. While it was a truly intriguing concept, I couldn't envision it coming to fruition due to the high costs and complexities associated with launching a manned spacecraft to send a film crew into space. Moreover, the crew of the ISS would have to allocate time to support the filming," Du explains.

Graduating from college in Russia after specializing in film and television, Du is well acquainted with the Russian film industry, noting that the country has produced acclaimed and commercially successful movies, such as the fantastic romance, I Am Dragon (2015), and the basketball-themed tale, Going Vertical (2017).

Du says that Shipenko has had a passion for space stories for years, recalling that the director previously helmed the 2017 movie Salyut-7, a nerve-wracking space movie adapted from the true story of two cosmonauts who fixed the damaged space station in 1985.

In 2020, Hollywood star Tom Cruise, alongside director Doug Liman, was reported to be planning to film in space with the aid of Elon Musk's SpaceX program. The plan has yet to be realized.

"Shortly after The Challenge wrapped, I heard that Cruise contacted Shipenko to inquire about the details of filmmaking in space, as he was very interested in the process," Du says.

When Du met the director during the Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival held in Xiamen, Fujian province, in November last year, the Chinese producer asked if the director had really seen the Great Wall from the ISS, as the depiction of spacemen observing the iconic Chinese fortification has been etched into the minds of generations of Chinese from their school textbooks.

"Shipenko replied 'yes, I saw the Great Wall from space. Several times in one day.' It made me very excited," he recalls.

According to the website of NASA, the space station makes 16 orbits of Earth, traveling through 16 sunrises and sunsets, in 24 hours.

With the movie garnering 8.0 points out of 10 on the major review aggregator Douban, Du estimates The Challenge may become an inspirational example, leading to a greater influx of Russian movies to Chinese mainland theaters.

"China has a vast film market. I hope that the movie's screening will attract a larger local audience and spark interest in Russian cinema, potentially paving the way for the import of more high-quality Russian films in the future," he says.

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