Tag Archives: Beijing

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Scene from a 2012 independent film titled "A Boy in China" (Image: Empty Mind Films)

I decided to indulge in a little Mandarin to celebrate the Chinese New Year — and news from proud mom Margot Magnum that her son, a young Kung Fu phenomenon named Andre, performed during Chinese New Year celebrations in NYC today. Seems there’s little down time for the energetic redhead profiled in a newly-released film.

A Boy in China” follows the martial arts adventures of Andre Magnum, seen largely through the eyes of parents Kenn and Margot Magnum — whose reflections on parenting a child with dreams that take him far from home are featured throughout the film.

Magnum, who turns ten in February, studies at the Shichahai Sports School in Beijing. How he got from Phoenix to Beijing is the subject of the film — which explores his early battles with hyperactivity and traditional classrooms, his martial arts training at home and abroad, and his adjustment to life in China.

Magnum discovered Kung Fu while watching scenes from a Jackie Chan film at the tender age of two, but it’s a mistake to assume that “A Boy in China” is just another Kung Fu flick from Empty Mind Films, which specializes in martial arts-related fare. It’s a tale of growing up, letting go and pushing through obstacles created by self and others.

Empty Mind Films is an independent studio specializing in “authentic, accurate and realistic” documentaries on China, Japan and India, as well as martial arts. It’s headed by British filmmaker and photographer Jon Braeley, who directed “A Boy in China.”

Braeley was trained at a young age in both Tai Chi Chuan and Akido, and earned his black belt in Shotokan Karate at age 22. Braeley moved to New York in 1990, and now divides his time between Beijing and Empty Mind production studios.

Details about Magnum’s early martial arts experiences, which began with Wing Chun Kung Fu training with Richard Loewenhagen, are conveyed through snippets of interviews with his parents and coaches.

Once the film shows Magnum heading with his father to China for training at the renowned Shaolin Temple, it incorporates vivid scenes of days spent stretching, marching, chanting, boxing and more.

Much of Magnum’s training with fellow students takes place in majestic outdoor settings with giant trees that make even large groups of students uniformly dressed in red or yellow garb feel small — reinforcing the fact that there’s much more to Kung Fu than meticulous movements.

Magnum moves from rural to big city setting once accepted into the Shichahai Sports School, so folks who see the film enjoy scenes of daily life in different parts of China. It’s interesting stuff for American audiences, especially in an age when China-U.S. relations inform so many discussions about education, technology and world politics.

The film is a masterful blend of three threads, beautifully balancing a family’s adjustment to a son’s special gifts and needs, an American boy’s assimilating into Chinese culture, and a martial arts culture that demands great physical and mental discipline.

“A Boy in China” was screened twice at the FilmBar in Phoenix during January. Both screenings were attended by three of Magnum’s coaches, including Gao Xiang, who teaches traditional Shaolin Kung Fu in Beijing. Also Joseph Eager of Eager Kung Fu and Wushu Academy and Jinheng Li of World Martial Arts Academy  — both located in Phoenix.

Eager and his students will be doing Kung Fu demonstrations this weekend as part of a three-day Chinese New Year celebration at the COFCO Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix. Students at the World Martial Arts Academy will get to enjoy “A Boy in China” during a 6:30pm screening on Tues, Jan. 31.

I sat near Magnum’s parents during an earlier screening, their third viewing of the film, and was touched to see Kenn put his arm around Margot — who got a bit misty eyed at times.

They’ve been married for more than two decades but never envisioned that a Kung Fu journey started while their son was just a toddler would forge a path to the Great Wall of China before he turned ten.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to follow post-production developments for “A Boy in China”

Coming up: A pair of “Midsummers,” Celebrating Seuss


Chinese arts and culture

Patricia Saewert work on exhibit at SCC

While searching through photos of my kiddos the other day, I found some old photos of a trip to China — taken as part of a “fam” (familiarization) tour during my days working in university affairs. People exploring blocks of bird markets. Men playing Mahjong in the streets. Tourists strolling along the Great Wall.

It reminded me that Scottsdale Community College is exhibiting “experimental Chinese painting” in their art building through Sat, Nov. 3. The exhibit — and reception Sat, Oct 8 (4pm-6pm) — is free and open to the public.

Rosemary Ramos White work on exhibit at SCC

The works, which portray a variey of subjects, were created by SCC artists during an Experimental Chinese Painting class first offered in the spring of 2011. It’ll be offered every two years by art professor Robert You, who trained in Beijing.

These paintings integrate Eastern and Western styles — and feature  representational and non-representational imagery.  They were executed with Chinese brushes and fine Chinese black and colored inks on shuen paper. Each painting has a unique “chop.” which is the artists signature.

Joy Smith work on exhibit at SCC

Custom-created chops, which look like rubber stamps on large blocks of wood, are popular with tourists who visit big cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Sadly, mine is likely lost to the ages unless someone from the A & E television network disovers it during an episode of “Storage Wars.”

You can enjoy a taste of Chinese culture at the COFCO Chinese Cultural Center near Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix — home to the Super L Ranch Market, which is a great place to introduce children to life beyond burgers and fries.

The Chinese Cultural Center’s gardens, designed by Madame Ye, feature replicas of landmarks from five ancient Chinese cities and adhere to Feng Shui and Ying Yang principals. Keep an eye on the center’s calendar for festivals and special events featuring Chinese culture and traditions.

Christine Dennis work on exhibit at SCC

The National Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China perform Wed, Oct 5 (7:30pm) at the Mesa Arts Center. The Beijing group of 35 sets martial arts, acrobatics and illusion to traditional Chinese music.

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix presents a “Museum Encounter” with three instrumentalists and two vocalists from Phoenix sister city Chengdu, China. The Sat, Oct 15 (11am) “Chengdu Performing Arts Showcase” is free with museum admission. They’ve also got an impressive collection of instruments from various regions of China.

I’ve got an impressive assortment of souvenirs. One day I hope to actually find and enjoy them.

— Lynn

Note: Learn more about Scottsdale Community College at www.scottsdalecc.edu, COFCO Chinese Cultural Center at www.phxchinatown.com, Mesa Arts Center at www.mesaartscenter.com and the Musical Instrument Museum at www.themim.org.

Coming up: Music and dance of India

Memorial Day music and more

You’ll have plenty of opportunities to enjoy live music this Memorial Day weekend—including the Phoenix Symphony’s “Red, White and Blue” concert at Symphony Hall in Phoenix on Sat, May 29, at 2:30pm (pre-show activities start at 1:30pm).

If you’re looking for some free musical entertainment, check out the “Free Sunday Night Concert Series” with local musicians at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale on Sun, May 30, at 7:30pm. Take some pocket money for optional food and train/carousel rides.

Bjorn Eriksson, Will Bates, Ryan Kitkowski, Josh Kirkorsky-Greasepaint Youtheatre's "The Sound of Plaid"

Indulge in a little nostalgia as the barbershop quartet “2 Under Par” performs at Greasepaint Youtheatre (formerly Stagebrush Theatre) in Scottsdale on Fri, May 28, at 6:30pm. The concert is free for ticket holders to the 7pm Greasepaint Youtheatre performance of “The Sound of Plaid”–a musical revue featuring pop hits of the ’50s.

If folk music and the blues is your thing, enjoy a “Hollywood Live on Stage” event featuring “The Bacon Brothers Live in Concert” (actor Kevin and musician Michael) at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix on Sat, May 29 and Sun, May 30 (both indoors at 8pm with doors opening at 7pm).

For those of you who like a bit of splash with your music, there’s an “Evening Tour of the Preserve” for all ages at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert on Fri, May 28, at 7pm. The tour features “stories, nature and music” so you might learn a little something too. (The riparian habitat, in which life depends on bodies of water, is considered the rarest natural community in Arizona.)

Plaid's Ryan Kitkowski, Will Bates, Bjorn Eriksson, Maya Granger, Josh Kirkorsky, Emilie Doering

If film is more your thing and you’re eager to enjoy some “adult content” time without the kiddos, visit the Phoenix Art Museum on Sun, May 30, at 1pm for the “No Festival Required” presentation of “Tokyo is Dreaming.” The film portrays several aspects of city life—including work, travel and leisure—plus issues like homelessness and alienation. The film’s director, producer and composer will all attend.

Tonight is “Community Movie Night” at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, presented in partnership with Hoodlums Music & Movies. Tonight’s free showing of “Tank Man” by Anthony Thomas starts at 6pm. The film examines the aftermath in China of the famous 1989 Tiananmen Square protest in Beijing, with special attention to finding the young man who stood firm as a tank continued to advance in his direction.

When the urge to get out of town strikes, consider visiting Arizona museums outside the Valley, including two featuring art festivals this weekend. The “Southwest Indian Art Festival” takes place Sat, May 29 and Sun, May 30 at the Smoki Museum in Prescott. The “Zuni Festival of Arts and Culture” occurs Sat, May 29 and Sun, May 30 at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff.

When all is said and done, sometimes a little playtime is all you really need. Take time on Monday (and every day) to remember and reflect on those we honor each Memorial Day. But leave some time for family fun too. On a day when so many other places are closed, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix will be open.

Emilie Doering, Bjorn Eriksson and Maya Granger have the power of the plaid!

Let your kids think you’re a hero for taking them. They don’t have to know the adventure was all yours…


Note: “The Sound of Plaid” photos by Laura Durant, who also does actor headshots and a weekly listing of Valley auditions. “The Sound of Plaid,” which runs through Sunday, is one of several theater productions happening this weekend. For a comprehensive list of theater and other activities for youth and families, visit the RAK calendar online.