This contemporary Chinese remake of 12 Angry Men has been a hit in that country, and won the Cinema Today People’s Choice Award at the Rome Film Festival in October. China does not have trial by jury, so the story, which is performed by an all-star cast, concerns a group who come together to simulate the experience of deliberating on the verdict in a famous murder case.
Do Chinese audiences recognize the source material of the American film 12 Angry Men?
12 Angry Men has a huge fan base in China. Up until this day, fans are still posting their film reviews online. To all movie lovers, especially those legal practitioners, it is a must-see film. The spirit of laws represented in 12 Angry Men is universal and the structure of its screenplay is classic, therefore many countries from different parts of the world kept reviving this masterpiece. Although there are differences between the legal systems in China and the U.S., the pursuit of justice is the same.
Many great actors appear in the film. Where are they from?
The 12 leading actors all come from the top Chinese theatres: ten of them are from Beijing People’s Art Theatre and two are from National Theatre of China. They all have appeared in many popular films and TV series. However, their stage experiences make them expert at performing in this closed-space setting, and only using their performances and dialogue to drive the story development. The director, Xu Ang is also from Beijing People’s Art Theatre, where he has been a friend to these 12 actors for years.
What was it like for the director to work with such talented performers on this project?
The director once used the metaphor “playing soccer” to describe the collective performance of these 12 actors: each of them has their own position of the same importance, and it takes seamless collaboration to keep the game going smoothly and eventually to score. Ang and the 12 leading actors rehearsed for a couple weeks in the manner that they used to do for theatre plays. This helped to fine-tune the lines and make them more vibrant.