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)
7 wins & 20 nominations. See more awards »

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Photos

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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

Joan Chen is friends with Charles Foster's wife, actress Ye Chen. They worked together in the Shanghai Film Studio. Charles Foster is portrayed in the film by Kyle MacLachlan, who previously worked with Joan Chen in Twin Peaks (1990). See more »

Goofs

About halfway through the film, Li Cunxin is eating at a Chinese restaurant. He asks Liz to try something he calls "vegetable from sea." However, the brown morsel he places between his chopsticks and in her mouth has the shape, color and texture of a piece of a Shiitake mushroom or another type of fungus. See more »

Quotes

Li - as an adult: Ben not understand. He's too much in love with China
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Connections

Referenced in Top Gear Australia: Bowls of Thunder (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

Allegro Ben Ritmato E Deciso (Prelude 1)
Written by George Gershwin
Performed by Simon Tedeschi
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User Reviews

 
inspiring story and a truly brilliant movie
1 October 2009 | by custanius-544-679001See all my reviews

To be honest, I've never actually finished Li's book. I had the vague idea its about a boy from my hometown that went on to become one of the best ballet dancers, but then, being a Chinese immigrant myself, I'm not particularly pleased with people 'cashing in' on their stories. After all, his story, in fact, was of particular interests to westerners because of the clashes of cultural identities between two worlds, which i and many thousands if not millions more overseas Chinese experience everyday. But after watching the movie, I have to say I loved it. The directing truly captured the struggle of a man torn apart between what 'ought to do' and what 'should do'.

I was born in Qingdao, China.So the connection between me and Li's story is very strong. Mr. Li is just about my parent's generation, so in a way, I can see his struggle in my own world, everyday. Qingdao is never short of artistic talent, to many, artistic talent is the only way out. 'There's no national boundaries in art', my parents used to tell me. When I was five my parents bought me my first piano, which cost them an entire year's savings, but it was seen as a valuable investment, 'art will pave the way to success', they used to say. Like my classmates in the piano class, I used to rise up 5 in the morning and practice until its time to go to school, only to come home then stay practicing until 10. Going to Beijing and to study in one of the national music academy would be many of my fellow classmate's dream. I can feel the pride Li's parents had when he went to America, I can also feel the pain he felt when he decided to stay in America. To Li and many others, to become what he was when he went to Beijing would be everything anyone could ever wanted. What more can he hope to achieve? He could've been the best ballet teacher in China, with fame and fortune to boot, but he threw all that away because of love and freedom. I don't believe it was because of money or fame, it was simply a choice made in a heartbeat by a young man who believes in himself.Was it selfish? I don't know. I'm confronted with this question everyday while I'm in Australia, to many Chinese and spectators, Li's action is selfish indeed, abandoning his duties, his parents and his place in the society pursuing freedom and love in a westerner's world. But the longer I stayed in western world, the harder I ponder that question, what is duty? and more importantly, what is a son's duty to his parents? to his nation? The value system is obviously very different back then, Li, who's seeking individual happiness didn't fit into a collective society like China. But, he also had the fortune to be plucked, trained and nurtured to become what he was. Should he repay his 'debt' by going back to China? or should he capitalise on what he has gained and achieve greater personal glory? It's easy to answer for anyone in a particular value group, but for Li and many Chinese overseas, it can be a life-long dilemma. After all, Li's fortunate enough to be sitting comfortably somewhere in Australia writing his book, many buried talents are somewhere in a dusted corner in China tutoring next generations of wannabe talents. But his fortune also comes from perseverance and handwork, from a heart to pursue what he truly believes in. To that end, the movie tells a brilliant story of a brave young man.


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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
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

|

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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