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Fish Out of Water Story Gets Chinese Twist

  • Ray Kouguell

American actor Daniel Henney stars in "Shanghai Calling" (Credit: Gao Yiping)

American actor Daniel Henney stars in "Shanghai Calling" (Credit: Gao Yiping)

The proverbial "fish-out-of-water" story gets an interesting twist in a new romantic comedy called Shanghai Calling. It is the tale of a rising Chinese-American lawyer named Sam Chao who by all appearances should be comfortable in his new surroundings but is not.
Sam gets the nod from his bosses, against his will, to pursue a major business deal in Shanghai for a revolutionary smart phone. He may look like he belongs in Shanghai, but Sam has never been outside of New York so is clueless about his new location when he arrives. It’s a classic case of culture shock.
"Shanghai Calling" is written and directed by Daniel Hsia. This is Hsia's first feature film and shot entirely on location. The 33-year-old Los Angeles-based director said the idea for the movie came from a college friend who decided to move to Beijing without any knowledge of Chinese and had never lived outside of the United States. Hsia said he was told “dozens of hilarious and bizarre stories about what it was to be an American immigrant living in China.”

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Hsia picked Shanghai for the movie because ““it was where I needed to go in order to get into the business community” and “an extremely cinematic city, I was really committed to putting that on film.”
The movie’s main character Sam knows nothing about Chinese customs. His transition is not made any easier by a very attractive Caucasion re-location specialist who speaks Mandarin. Sam does not speak a word of it. He also must deal with a pirate phone manufacturer who threatens to turn everything into a legal disaster.
Hsia said he was focused on making the humor “a very realistic and very contemporary vision of what life is like in China today.”
The film is a U.S.- China co-production. Through the movie’s production and marketing, Hsia said, “I learned a tremendous amount about what is happening in China and how to conduct business.” In many ways he explained, “my own personal journey has become more and more like the journey of our main character Sam” and “mistaken about many of his assumptions.”
The movie stars Daniel Henney as Sam and Eliza Coupe as Amanda, a romantic interest and ex-pat guide to the ways of Chinese culture.
“Shanghai Calling” is playing in China and comes with impressive credentials. The two Daniels - director Hsia and leading man Henney - have won several awards for their work in the movie from California and Shanghai film festivals.