Bridge across troubled waters
Updated: 2013-01-06 11:25
By Sun Yuanqing (China Daily)
Enough cliched stories have been told about cross-cultural romances, especially between Asian women and European men, so much so that French director Fabien Gaillard decided to approach a Chinese-French love story in a different way.
In his movie Foreigner (Laowai), an "impossible couple" - Paul, a French IT engineer and musician, and Mei, a traditional Wuhan girl - fall in love and strive to stay together despite the obstacles of culture and a troublesome ex-girlfriend.
"The argument is not only about cultural differences, but also about the disputes between men and women," says Gaillard, 33. "I try to make the film universal."
Gaillard uses love stories to approach cultural and emotional differences. Zhang Wei / China Daily
The Chinese-speaking movie was first shown at the Inaugural Vietnam International Film Festival in 2010 and received positive reviews.
The Hollywood Reporter called it "an unassuming romantic drama that could well be the beginning of a larger trend in Asian cinema".
Film Business Asia described it as a "cross-cultural romance that avoids all the usual pitfalls and cliches".
The movie stars Gauthier Roubichou, a French musician who speaks fluent Chinese, and Han Dantong, a Chinese actress. Gaillard put much thought into casting as he wanted actors who could convey the right message.
"I want to tell a story about someone who knows about China. I want him to speak Chinese and perform and sing in Chinese."
For the part of Mei, Gaillard auditioned more than 20 actresses before finally picking Han.
My only idea of the heroine was that I wanted her to be very traditional Chinese," he says.
"They are a kind of impossible couple, when Mei is very Chinese and doesn't speak any English, and Paul is very French.
"Paul may be the kind of guy who always goes out with girls like Vicky (Paul's ex-girlfriend), who can speak English and have a foreign cultural background. But this is the first time he has met a girl like Mei, who is truly a traditional Chinese woman."
Gaillard hopes the film will break down stereotypes.
"People might have a certain prejudice against cross-culture couples," he says. "But there are some for true love, like in the movie. And this is what the movie wants to show, to break the cliched image of women who date foreigners."