Alibaba's Jack Ma goes up against some of Asia's biggest martial arts stars in kungfu flick 'GSD'
Jack Ma, chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and one of country's richest men, will star as the lead in a 20-minute short film titled Gongshoudao, or GSD, the film's executive producer Jet Li, also one of China's best-known kungfu stars, announced on Tuesday at a press conference in Shanghai.
The film, part of cooperative efforts between Li and Ma started six years ago, will debut on Chinese streaming platform Youku on November 11, also known as Singles' Day or Double 11 - the biggest online shopping day in China. An 8-minute cut of the film will premiere at Alibaba's Double 11 Shopping Festival gala on November 10, said Li at the press conference.
An Alibaba Pictures production directed by Chinese actor Wen Zhang, the film aims to spread China's kungfu culture and Li's newly developed kungfu sport of the same name. It tells the tale of a contest of skills between Ma's taichi master and a number of kungfu masters.
According to a Beijing News report on Wednesday, an Alibaba Picture representative said that the film, which is not meant to be a commercial production, may also hold free screenings in cinemas for select audiences.
"I got to know Mr Ma 10 years ago, when I first established the One Foundation... I have practiced martial arts since I was eight and have always dreamed of sharing Chinese martial arts with the world," Li said.
"My heart ached because martial arts was not included as an Olympic event," said Li. "I talked about this with my friend Mr Ma. What I didn't expect was to find that he was even crazier than I was about martial arts," he said, mentioning that Ma handed him a screenplay eight years ago saying he "wanted to become a director, actor and screenwriter."
According to Li, Ma's dream started to become a reality in April when Ma called and offered Li seven to eight minutes of time at the November 10 gala to promote Li's Gongshoudao sport.
On Saturday, Ma had sent Chinese social media into a storm of speculation after he posted a poster of the film featuring him standing cross-armed and dressed in a black-and-green long robe next to 11 of Asia's most well-known martial arts and action stars against a grey backdrop decorated with the letters "GSD."
"That night… that dream!" the Alibaba chairman wrote in the post, but released no further information, quickly sparking massive discussion about the low-profile production on Chinese social media platforms.
Aside from Jack Ma and Jet Li, the film stars nine other actors and one actress, including Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Wu Jing (director and lead of China's record-breaking action film Wolf Warrior 2), Olympic gold-winning boxer Zou Shiming, as well as Tony Jaa from Thailand.
A new sport
"I asked Ma to promise me that we could shoot for at least 12 consecutive days, 12 hours each day. After a lot of rescheduling, he did it," Li recalled at the press conference, adding that he was impressed by the professionalism that the busy, veteran entrepreneur yet green actor showed.
The film's name Gongshoudao refers to "the use of kungfu to guard our home," explained the Chinese kungfu star best known for his 1982 classic The Shaolin Temple.
The term is also the name of a new sport co-launched by Li and Ma based on traditional Chinese martial arts, including Taichi, of which Ma is a devoted practitioner. The first public match of this new sport is scheduled to debut in Beijing on November 15.
"Taichi 1.0 is about one individual practicing Taichi, while Taichi 2.0 is about two individuals facing against each other. The Gongshoudao Mr Ma and I have founded is Taichi 3.0," Li explained.
"Inside a ring measuring three meters in diameter, contestants face each other in a one-on-one fight. Anyone who successfully gets his opponent outside of the ring wins," Li said.