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Mao's Last Dancer (2009)

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2:27 | Trailer
In Maoist China, a boy is taken from his family and trained to become a dancer, but everything he knows is challenged when he is chosen to attend a ballet summer school in Houston, Texas.

Director:

Bruce Beresford

Writers:

Jan Sardi (screenplay), Cunxin Li (autobiography)
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Popularity
2,621 ( 14,363)
7 wins & 20 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Chi Cao ... Li - as an adult
Bruce Greenwood ... Ben Stevenson
Penne Hackforth-Jones Penne Hackforth-Jones ... Cynthia Dodds
Christopher Kirby ... Mason (as Chris Kirby)
Suzie Steen ... Betty Lou
Madeleine Eastoe Madeleine Eastoe ... Lori
Aden Young ... Dilworth
Wen Bin Huang Wen Bin Huang ... Li - as a child
Shu Guang Liang Shu Guang Liang ... Jing Tring - 8 yrs
Ye Wang Ye Wang ... Cunfar - 14 yrs
Neng Neng Zhang Neng Neng Zhang ... Gong Mei
Wan Shi Xu Wan Shi Xu ... Shen Yu
Shao Wei Yi Shao Wei Yi ... Yang Ping
Hui Cong Zhan Hui Cong Zhan ... Teacher Song
Ji Feng Sun Ji Feng Sun ... Headmaster
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Storyline

A drama based on the autobiography by Li Cunxin. At the age of 11, Li was plucked from a poor Chinese village by Madame Mao's cultural delegates and taken to Beijing to study ballet. In 1979, during a cultural exchange to Texas, he fell in love with an American woman. Two years later, he managed to defect and went on to perform as a principal dancer for the Houston Ballet and as a principal artist with the Australian Ballet. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Before You Can Fly You Have To Be Free.


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for a brief violent image, some sensuality, language and incidental smoking | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Schull, Amanda who plays Li's wife Elizabeth--the American dancer who leaves him to audition for the San Francisco Ballet--was herself a member of the SF corps de ballet until she retired in 2006. See more »

Goofs

The Company headquarters and studios, as depicted by the Sydney Carriage House, was a far ritzier set of digs than the Academy had in the early 1980s. Posters depicting The Lady And The Fool, and Two Pigeons, were accurate portrayals of the company's offerings in those years. At the time The Houston Ballet Academy was very small. It was half of a strip mall on Colquitt near the intersection of Kirby Drive and Richmond Avenue, which from the outside looked relatively crowded. A more spacious West Gray venue, which they obtained several years later, was about the size of a blimp hangar. That location was later replaced by condominiums after the company moved to the Center For Dance, downtown next to the Wortham; yet the Colquitt building still stands. See more »

Quotes

Li - as an adult: In China, not so easy. Tell you what to do, where to go, what can say
See more »

Connections

Featured in Zomergasten: Episode #24.2 (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

Don Quixote
Written by Ludwig Minkus (as L. Minkus)
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User Reviews

 
Mao's dancer becomes capitalist roader
27 October 2009 | by Philby-3See all my reviews

Bruce Beresford is one veteran Australian director who can produce popular films, and this one is definitely a crowd-pleaser, at least for the crowd that likes to watch dance. The story itself (naïve young dancer from totalitarian regime defects to the freedom of the West) is pretty hackneyed but is framed by some exquisite dancing scenes. My former Red Guard colleague "Robin" thought that the protagonist Li Cunxin was a bit of a goose, for, given his extraordinary talent, if he had gone back to China he would have reached the top of the dance establishment. Instead, seduced by the shopping malls and high rise of Houston as well as by a young American dancer, and outraged when he discovers the Party has lied to him about America, he defects, causing a minor diplomatic incident and cutting himself off for the time being at least from his family. Still, he was only 18 at the time.

The two actors portraying Li, Chengwu Gao as a boy and Chi Cao as an 18 year old, do excellent work, given that neither is a professional. In fact all the Chinese actors were terrific. The American / Australian support cast was OK (Jack Thomson reprising his good ole legal boy act, Kyle Maclachlan playing a straight role), though I found Bruce Greenwood as the Houston Dance Company director Ben Stevenson mildly irritating. One does see his point, however, about most of the Chinese dancers being athletes rather than artists. There were some sloppy aspects. Some of the Houston scenes were filmed in Balmain, Sydney, green street signs and all, which by no stretch of the imagination looks anything like anywhere in Houston. Yet Beresford filmed in Houston, and went to considerable trouble to film in China. The Qintao village scenes are beautifully composed and the very last scene shows how Beresford must have convinced suspicious local party officials that he was making a movie they could approve of. I guess he didn't show them the scenes with the Madam Mao–like character chucking her weight about.

It's not mentioned in the film, but it's well known that when Li's dance career came to an end he re-trained as a stockbroker, an unlikely "happy ever after" scenario. He now lives in Melbourne. Beresford and Jan Sardi based the script on Li's own best-selling memoir and there's no doubt they have added something, if only some great ballet scenes – the extract from Stravinsky's "Firebird was fabulous.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

Australia

Language:

English | Mandarin

Release Date:

1 October 2010 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mao's Last Dancer See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$199,657, 22 August 2010

Gross USA:

$4,817,770

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$23,914,731
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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