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Film documents an unlikely friendship during wartime

Ju Chuanjiang and Zhao Ruixue in Weifang, Shandong province
Updated: Aug 20,2015 9:09 AM     China Daily

[Photo by Ju Chuanjiang/China Daily]

The Last Race, the unofficial sequel to the cinema classic, Chariots of Fire, has completed shooting and is set for worldwide release in March, according to director Stephen Shin.

Shin confirmed that shooting had been completed at a ceremony for the film that also marked the 70th anniversary for the liberation of the Weihsien (old name for Weifang) Concentration Camp in Weifang, Shandong province, in August.

[Photo by Ju Chuanjiang/China Daily]

Codirected by Canadian filmmaker Michael Parker, the film focuses on the friendship between Chinese man Xu Niu played by Dou Xiao and a Scottish runner Eric Liddell played by British actor Joseph Fiennes.

The film focuses on how they both suffered at the hands of the Japanese occupiers during World War II and helped the detainees at the Weihsien camp.

“Chinese films have seldom touched the theme of the friendship between China and other countries, so when I got the story about the friendship between a Chinese man and a Scot, I thought it is of great significance to make it into a film,” Shin says.

Valentine Soltay, a former detainee at the Weihsien camp, attends the ceremony.[Photo by Ju Chuanjiang/China Daily]

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Japanese established many camps worldwide to intern citizens of Allied countries. Weihsien camp was the largest. The camp housed more than 2,000 people, 327 of them children, from more than 30 countries.

Liddell was one of Scotland’s most celebrated athletes.

Born in China in 1902, he was sent to Britain at age 5 to be educated. He won a gold medal in the 400-meter sprint at the 1924 Paris Olympics.

Liddell returned to China in 1925 and worked as a teacher in Tianjin for nearly 20 years.

In 1943, he was held in Weihsien with about 2,000 other Westerners. He died in the camp at the age of 43 of a brain tumor.

The film’s ceremony in Weifang was attended by two of Liddell’s daughters, as well as several former detainees who knew Liddell from their time in Weihsien.

Hakon Daniel Torjesen, 89, says the film clip shown at the ceremony touched his heart.

“Although the years in Weihsien were a time of scarcity, they were also a source of strength. Each of us shall remember the Weihsien experience,” Torjesen says.

Shin spent six years writing the script, a process that involved him visiting many of the places where events in the film take place.

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