Red Cliff: John Woo's Director's Statement

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John Woo is the director of "Red Cliff," based on the events during the Three Kingdoms period in Ancient China. The film is being released in November by Magnolia Pictures.

Director's Statement

We have all seen Hollywood’s epic blockbusters. We, as an audience, are deeply moved by the grand imagery and heart-pounding sound achieved through modern technologies. The world’s audiences have also enjoyed the various genres of Chinese cinema, including kung-fu, action and drama. However, Chinese historical epics are rarely depicted with the scale and technique that is found in Hollywood blockbusters. Chinese cinema contains much of our cultural heritage, including the spirit of the martial arts. Using the medium of cinema, we are able to express our ideals and culture through different layers. These thoughts led me to make a film about the heroes of the Three Kingdoms outside of the martial arts genre. It is a film I had long dreamed of making, ever since I read about the heroes from that glorious time in history.

The story of RED CLIFF took place 1,800 years ago in China. It was a battle bearing significant historical importance. Through the widely told tales of the battle, we learned of the great intelligence and bravery of the ancient people of China, who, though gravely outnumbered, managed to defeat their enemies. I believe that by working with our talented teams and utilizing recent technological advances, we are able to create this epic tale in a film on the same scale as a Hollywood blockbuster.  Through on location filming and post production special effects, we recreated the realism of the ancient battlefield. Such visual spectacle has never been seen on the Chinese screen. 

My goal is for this film to rise above cultural and historical barriers, so that the Western audience feels as if they are watching an Asian Troy, while the Eastern audience can discover new perspectives on a familiar story. I also wanted to prove that here in China we are capable of creating an epic film of the same caliber as a Hollywood production.

For me, the most attractive aspects of Romance of the Three Kingdoms are not the supernatural characters idealized by the novel, but the true heroism the characters show. The world has many kinds of heroes, but I like heroes that are real and human. I see many similarities between my idea of what a hero should be and the characters of Three Kingdoms. I genuinely believe that human emotion is universal and not bound by culture. The same values of virtue, morality and friendship are praised in the West just as they are in the East. Though these feelings are expressed in different ways, deep inside, we all essentially share the same emotions.
With this in mind, I disregarded a great deal of the details in the book when I made RED CLIFF. We assembled a large production crew from all over the world: China, America, Japan and Korea. During the course of our collaboration, talented people from both East and West were able to learn from working together.

During the shooting of RED CLIFF, I was also surprised to find there are many young people full of passion for filmmaking in China. They worked hard and learned a great deal, while all the time maintaining a modest attitude.

Despite differences in our backgrounds, we worked together and constantly overcame the many great obstacles before us, persisting through disastrous weather conditions, all for the successful completion of our large scale battle scenes. I was deeply touched by the spirit, diligence and unity of our teams. 

At the same time, we’ve received immense support from the Chinese government in the making of this film. In this exciting time and place in history, I firmly believe that Chinese cinema is on the right track. It will soon emerge on the world stage and captivate the world with its amazing diversity and charismatic stars.

It was only ten years ago that a film like RED CLIFF was next to impossible to create.   The technologies and resources were simply unavailable. Thus, I would like to pass on my sincere gratitude and appreciation to all our investors from China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, who helped me realize this dream of mine. I truly wished to make a film that could be enjoyed by audiences all over the world. Inside my heart, film knows no boundary. While audiences in the East love many great movies from the West, western audiences also appreciate the splendid culture of the East. Therefore, I genuinely hope that when you watch RED CLIFF you do not look at it as a Chinese film or a Hollywood film, but as a global film.

                                                                                                                                                       – Director John Woo