If you guessed California or Florida or Canada or Romania, you'd be off by a few thousand miles. The World's Largest Studio is a new documentary that promises to provide a picturesque view of Hengdian World Studios, located a few hours' drive south from Shanghai in the eastern part of China. Producer Charlie Moretti told Shanghai Dailythat the film "looks at the lives of the businessmen who started the studios with just 2,000 yuan (US$261), the gardeners who tend the grounds, the actors and actresses and everyone else in between."

Construction on the gigantic studios, which now cover more than 800 acres, commenced in 1996 when director Xie Jin wanted to recreate 1850s Canton for his film The Opium War. Businessman Xu Wenrong got the job done in just three months and the filmmaker was so impressed he recommended the location to Chen Kaige for his next project, The Emperor and the Assassin. That film required a huge new palace set, and Xu was happy to oblige. "We used up more dynamite than this county had used in its whole history," he later toldPeople's Daily Online. A few years after that, Ang Lee filmed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at the studios and Zhang Yimou shot Hero. It's notable that both Chen (The Promise) and Zhang (Curse of the Golden Flower) returned to work at Hengdian with their bigger-budgeted pictures.

The World's Largest Studio screened for the first time in Shanghai this week. According to Moretti, a 27-year-old Frenchman who co-directed with Matthew Clarke, "people should soon be able to watch the documentary on international channels. We are also exploring the possibility of making an extended DVD." A handsome-looking teaser, jammed with clips from films shot at the studio, is available on the production company's web site.
categories Cinematical