Strangers in a Strange Land: The Adventures of a Canadian Film Crew in China (1988)

Run Time - 83 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Synopsis by Clarke Fountain

This cautionary documentary shows that in some cases, practically everything that can go wrong in making an internationally produced film does go wrong. It certainly does during the filming of the Chinese and Canadian produced Bethune: The Making of a Hero, a biographical drama about a Canadian doctor who stayed behind in China after the 1949 revolution and became a major force in developing that nation's health-care system. The Canadian crew is shown protesting to their Chinese hosts that they don't have any fresh water or toilet facilities, the food is awful, etc. They eventually stage a work stoppage, and at least get some decent food. Perhaps choosing a remote village in China for filming led to a trifle too much authenticity. With much of the film not complete at the time this documentary was released, the producers announced that its remaining footage would be filmed in Montreal and Spain. Meanwhile, the film's scriptwriter (Ted Allan) and the leading actor (Donald Sutherland) are shown to be at loggerheads, so that they won't appear on camera at the same time. Meanwhile, the film's director pins the blame for this mess squarely on the producers having failed to do the necessary research.