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Documentary filmmaker shows westerners the majesty of China
Chris Nebe is a German-born film producer and director living in Los Angeles, CA, and President of Monarex Hollywood Corporation. He has been deeply interested in China for many years, but it was a chance meeting that became the catalyst for his current passion: a series of feature-length documentary films: “Mysterious China.”
“’Marco Polo’s Shangri-La’ is the first film, which I cut mostly from existing footage, plus some new film I took myself to help tie the narrative together,” explains Mr. Nebe, who is credited as Writer, Producer and Director. “We now have eight finished films and two more in post-production.” Shangri-La is a mythical idyllic hideaway land, but for the famed Venetian explorer Marco Polo (and Chris Nebe), Yunnan Province in Southern China is as close to Shangri-La as one can get. The cultural diversity and way of life has remained untouched for thousands of years, and this film brings you inside to explore this hidden land.
Mr. Nebe initially earned his success in the movie business as a distributor of over 150 movies in Germany in the 1970s. He later produced and directed several films, mostly documentaries. Making films about China in China is the realization of a lifelong dream. “Westerners have so many misconceptions about China and her people,” Mr. Nebe says. “It is a very complex and vibrant society, and I want to introduce that to the West.” He shies from the political, however. “I try to make my films from a neutral, non-judgmental point of view, focusing on exploring the many cultural complexities, and offering a viewpoint that will allow westerners a chance to better understand, and hopefully dispel some of our pre-conceived ideas about the Chinese people.”
The opportunity for making the “Mysterious China Series” opened while Mr. Nebe was getting a haircut in Beverly Hills some years ago. The stylist mentioned that a prominent Chinese studio head, Tian-Ming Wu, was having trouble extending his visa. Mr. Nebe was able to help, and the two men became friends. That led to more introductions and invitations (Mr. Nebe is frequently called upon to present awards and certificates of recognition at events in Southern California—often the only non-Asian person in attendance). At one such occasion, he met an executive at Yunnan TV. Mr. Nebe was invited to see some of the footage the station had, and the vision for “Marco Polo’s Shangri-La” was born.
“I asked if I could take the raw film and edit it together and make a movie that would be seen in America, and they agreed.” That film spawned other provinces to approach Mr. Nebe about doing documentaries for them, one of which was used in the official Media Packet for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. “Each province is very competitive with the other provinces, for investment, for tourism, and for recognition.” But Mr. Nebe insists he was never told what to film, what not to film, or what to emphasize. “My creative control has never been challenged.”
The “Mysterious China Series” is now being aired on public television in several places, and by this summer should be airing all across the US. For more information or to purchase DVDs, visit www.monarex.com.