Childhood dream of becoming a wuxia hero realized, kind of

With childhood dreams of becoming a wuxia hero, Tao Mingxi soon realized he might need to adjust his goals somewhat.

Filmed by Tang Dafei. Edited by Zhong Youyang. Translated by Lin Riqing. Polished by Andy Boreham.

With childhood dreams of becoming a wuxia hero, Tao Mingxi soon realized he might need to adjust his goals somewhat. That’s when he ventured into the film industry, where he applied his wushu training as a stunt double, wuxia stunt coordinator and, finally, an action film director.

Becoming a director has finally allowed him to fully bring to life the world that he envisioned as a boy, providing an alternative path to complete his wuxia dream.

In 2017, Tao attended the Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF), an experience he describes as both a learning experience and an opportunity to grow. Not only was he able to come into contact with incredible films and directors, the global reach of SIFF brought him a larger, more diverse audience.

The film featured at the festival was Tao’s latest work, The Bravest Escort Group. It's a retelling of the tale of perilous journey undertaken by the escort group of a Qing prince’s concubine, and takes place in the southeast regions of Guizhou, where many ethnic minorities are located, especially large concentrations of Miao and Dong peoples.

Striving for authenticity, The Bravest Escort Group was filmed entirely on-location, sometimes forcing the crew into far-flung, dangerous areas. Tao insists, however, that there was no other way.

“We wanted to show audiences this side of Guizhou, to see the beautiful scenery (…) and the ethnic minorities residing in the area, their culture, their lifestyles – that’s all art, and it’s not something you can replicate in a studio.”

His film incorporates parts of that unique culture, including locals getting together to watch cockfighting, as well as participating in ceremonial song and dance. The congregations of different ethnic minorities also influenced the set and props used in the movie.

When attempting to understand the culture of ethnic minorities, Tao says the most important thing is to be open and respectful. Through the addition of Miao elements, he wants to highlight the good things about the culture, instead of commercialising it for theatrical value.

“I want to show not just the southeast of Guizhou, but also the people in that region that live on the lowest rungs of our society. I want to show the trust in the community, as well as the intelligence and strength they have when their livelihood is under threat. That’s the kind of heroism I believe in.”

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