by Robert Waldman -Vancouver BC
In a special to the Afro News we get to hear first hand about the making of the feature film “Heart of a Dragon” from the director’s perspective. Michael French speaks about the human spirit, overcoming obstacles, and the inspiration he came away with from Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion journey.
Twenty-five years ago, I flew with a film crew from Vancouver to Beijing to film something I thought was quite extraordinary. A vibrant young man Rick Hansen, accompanied by a few of his closest friends, was going around the world in his wheelchair on his Man in Motion World Tour. Entering Beijing, he was given a hero’s welcome by over 1 million Chinese. I asked myself “Why this man, and why in China? From that moment, I also have taken a journey to make the feature film “Heart of a Dragon” a story of a man, Everyman, and his trusted group of friends who, in a test of their own self endurance, discover the true meaning of loyalty, friendship and the strength of the human spirit – and the stuff that hope and dreams are made of.
“Heart of a Dragon’ is about overcoming yourself. Each of us is faced with enormous struggles in our lives, some physical and some emotional. And not everyone has a disability that you can see. Sometimes, many times, a psychological or emotional disability can be as incapacitating as a physical one, even more so. What I took away from my experiences in China then and in making this film was such an appreciation and understanding that we can accomplish so much more through love, compassion and the power of our dreams – and the support of the people we love.
In our film, Jim Brynes, — a wonderful actor, musician and trusted friend in Vancouver — plays the role of Ivan, the cynical and skeptical photo journalist. Physically challenged himself, Jim said to me: “Each one of us has things inside of us that can be as disabling as missing a limb, having a spinal cord injury, or being blind or deaf.” It’s perseverance and commitment and the fact that we all need one another. You can’t do it all yourself is one of the messages of the film. You have a dream, it’s hard work, it’s loyalty and your friends.”
And this is one of the reasons I decided to call this motion picture “Heart of a Dragon” — it’s about the heart of a trusted friend. In China, dragons have a very different meaning than in our culture. We see dragons as dangerous things to be avoided, fire-breathing creatures in myths who can rain down terror on anyone they want. But in Chinese culture, a dragon is a trusted friend who, only if provoked, becomes an enemy. It’s about overcoming yourself and having faith in a trusted friend. That’s something that all of us can feel and relate to in our lives. The universal story here is that if you’re lucky enough to be able to trust people around you, you can achieve anything.
Yes, it was on the Great Wall 25 years ago that I met those dragons, those trusted friends, who have helped me on my own journey to follow my passion and make my own dreams come true – in making the movie “Heart of a Dragon.”
By Michael French, Director, Producer, Screenwriter
“Heart of a Dragon” opens in B.C. theatres on October 29th.