Close-ups of grains of sand blowing in the desert wind are one of the many ways Huawei shows off the capabilities of its Mate30 mobile phone in “Badain Jaran” (巴丹吉林), a story of misadventure in the Mongolian wilderness shot entirely with the device’s camera.
The story follows two couples as they embark on a road trip into the depths of Inner Mongolia’s mysterious Badain Jaran desert, known for its improbable series of lakes amid towering sand dunes. Vicky and Zhao Tianyu are an apparently well-to-do young couple set on an extravagant wedding photo shoot, for which they have enlisted Zhao’s former classmate Gu Xiaofeng and his partner, Wenjing.
But first their car gets stuck in the sand, forcing them to spend a night in the middle of nowhere, and the next day they run out of gas, prompting conflict, revelations and soul-searching before the group discovers a path to salvation. The film ends with comic images of the resulting photo shoot, its stars sporting exhausted countenances and sun-blistered lips.
The dramatic desert landscape is showcased throughout via the Mate30’s high-quality cinematographic capabilities, and the 20-minute film has received positive reviews, with more than a million views so far on Weibo. However, Huawei’s products are never seen in the film, and the brand’s role is not revealed until the start of the closing credits.
The film was written and directed by Johnny Ren, a relative newcomer to directing, with production supervised by Diao Yinan, an acclaimed filmmaker whose “Black Coal, Thin Ice”(白日焰火) won the Golden Bear at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival. Diao’s “The Wild Goose Lake” (南方车站的聚会) was the only Chinese film in the main competition at Cannes this year.
Produced by Ren’s Keung Studio, “Badain Jaran” is the first in Huawei’s “Smartphone Movie Plan.” A separate short video released by Huawei gives viewers the opportunity to hear from Ren and Diao, with detailed discussion of how they achieved their effects with the Mate30.