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Former ISIS bastion becomes setting for Jackie Chan film (VIDEO) — Analysis

A destroyed town in Syria is “Play” Yemen in a Chinese patriotic blockbuster project

The ruins of a former Islamic State bastion in Syria will be “playing” the role of Yemen in a blockbuster produced by a popular Chinese actor, martial artist and filmmaker Jackie Chan, AFP reported on Sunday.

The action film ‘Home Operation’ depicts the 2015 large-scale emergency operation which saw hundreds of Chinese nationals as well as some foreigners evacuated from Yemen, which hides in the script behind a fictional name, ‘Poman.’ 

It takes the perspective of diplomats who are Communist Party members, who braved a hail of bullets in a war-torn country and safely brought all Chinese compatriots onto the country’s warship unscathed,” director Yinxi Song told reporters.

Yemen proved too hazardous to film, so the Ghost Town of Hajar-al-Aswad was chosen for the location. 

A densely populated Damascus suburb prior to 2011, Hajar-al-Aswad became one of the Islamic State group’s strongholds later, when a civil war erupted in the country. In 2018, Syrian pro-government forces liberated it. It was nearly destroyed over all these years, and remains largely uninhabited since.

These sites are currently experiencing a revival of sorts, as they have become popular with film producers who come from countries which maintain good relations to the Syrian government. “Studio construction in these types of areas can be very costly, therefore these are low-cost studios,” Rawad Shahin, a film director and a member of the ‘Home Operation’ crew explained to reporters, as quoted by AFP.

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As the film is believed to be the first Chinese movie to be shot in Syria, Beijing’s ambassador to the country was present at the launch of the filming. Jackie Chan is expected not to visit the country, even though she was the executive producer for the film.

Though Hajar-al-Aswad is just one of many filming locations, along with other places in Syria, in Lebanon, UAE and other Arab countries, its choice as a set for a Chinese blockbuster has prompted mixed reaction on social media: some users criticized Chinese cinematographers for cynical usage of war-torn places for “propaganda” purposes, while others hailed the international efforts that breathe new life into such sites.

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