French butterfly, Chinese nightingale

French butterfly, Chinese nightingale
The Nightingale.

In 2002, French film-maker Philippe Muyl released The Butterfly, a work he wrote and directed.

The bittersweet comedy-drama about a septuagenarian and a small child on a butterfly hunt achieved a measure of success across the world.

In China, it found a devoted following through pirated DVDs because it was never officially released there.

Muyl, 70, should be upset at the theft of his work but if he is, he does not show it. It might be because one of those illegal discs got into the hands of respected China actor Li Baotian, best known for his parts in Zhang Yimou films such as Ju Dou (1990) and Shanghai Triad (1995).

"He loved it. For a long time, I wondered why this film was so successful in China but now I think it's because they enjoy watching two people who are opposites in age - an old person and a child," says Muyl on the telephone from Paris.

Speaking through a translator, he said the actor, working with producers, contacted him four years ago to discuss a remake but with China as the setting, featuring local actors.

The result is the Sino-French co-production The Nightingale, which will premiere tomorrow at the ScreenSingapore trade show. On Friday and Saturday, the public can watch the film at ScreenSingapore's partnering event, the 3rd Rendezvous With French Cinema festival.

Muyl started making trips to China in 2010 for research and to develop the script. Walking around Beijing, he noticed that in many families, grandparents look after young children while the parents are at work.

He noted how families in cities were smaller and the kids more pampered, compared with rural families.

That formed the base of the story in his script. Zhi Gen (Li Baotian), is an ageing widower and former factory worker, estranged from his high- flying architect son, Chong Yi (Hao Qin).

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