‘Better Angels’ to calm China-US tensions

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Better Angels hopes to search for common grounds in China-US ties.

A new Chinese-American co-produced documentary, ‘Better Angels’, presents another path in people-to-people level relations between China and United States despite increased tensions recently.

The 92-minute film, written and directed by two-time Academy Award-winner Malcolm Clarke (‘Prisoner of Paradise’) and produced by William Mundell and Han Yi, examines the proposition that America and China can benefit enormously by looking beyond their traditional rivalries to a future in which differences are respected rather than suspected, and where both sides focus on the issues that unite them, rather than those that drive them apart.

“I hope the film will shatter the myths that Americans hold about China and Chinese hold about America,” said producer Mundell at the premiere held in Beijing last Saturday, which was organized by the Center for China and Globalization (CCG) and attended by many Chinese and American elites, including the current American ambassador to China Terry Branstad.

Branstad, the former governor of Iowa, actually appeared in the film as one of the key interviewees among the likes of iconic political and business heavyweights in the arena of Sino-US relations including three former US secretaries of state Henry Kissinger, James Baker, and Madeleine Albright, former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, and Tung Chee-hwa, the first chief executive of the HKSAR, China and Chinese billionaire tycoons Wang Jianlin and Ronnie Chan, as well as economist Cheng Siwei and retired major general Qiao Liang.

But their punditry only served as a background to the intimate and sometimes heartbroken portrayal and stories of ordinary Chinese and Americans who became “accidental diplomats” enhancing civil exchanges and bonds between the two countries, including Memo Mata, a former US marine from Los Fresnos, Texas, who moved to China and not only became an English teacher and football coach, but also married a Chinese woman.

The film also tells story of a Chinese teacher who helps American children learn math using an abacus. It has a segment featuring a Chinese engineer named Bao Wangli who’s on a multi-year assignment in Ethiopia to construct a bridge and can rarely communicate with his wife and newborn baby due to intermittent mobile signals. More than 60 million children in China, like Bao’s child, are growing in remote villages without parents as their parents move to cities or even overseas for work.

“If you can affect people emotionally, not intellectually, they will remember things for a very long time. That is what we tried to do with this film,” said director Clarke.

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