Eric Liddell, Running the Last Race

One of my all-time favorite movies is Chariots Of Fire, which told the story of Eric Liddell, a Scot who ran in the 1924 Olympic Games, and who later went on to be a missionary in China (where he had been born). Here’s the official trailer for that 1981 film:

(email readers, go here to see the clip)

Now, 35 years later, a sequel to that movie has been made, and it’s been made in China. Starring Joseph Fiennes, and directed by Stephen Chin, a Chinese Christian filmmaker,  The Last Race tells the story of Liddell’s life after the Olympics.

He returned to Tianjin, the city where he had been born, but when the Japanese invaded he, along with the foreign community of North China was sent to a Japanese prison camp in Shandong Province. While in the camp, he taught science to the children and took on a mentoring role for the young people. He died of a brain tumor in the camp before the end of the war.

Doing a movie about a foreign missionary in China wasn’t without it’s challenges. According to The Beijinger, Chin had this to say about those challenges:

“Christianity is a very sensitive subject in China,” Shin told China Film Insider on the sidelines of the Beijing International Film Festival. “Everyone knows that it is not easy to bring that message here. But now, luckily, the censorship is quite reasonable. We are not pushing other people to accept Christianity or promoting any religious message.”

Director Shin said he first heard of Liddell’s story when he was working in Shanghai in 2008 on business related to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, by which time The Last Race script had been written and revised for almost eight years.

”Luckily, two years ago, it got through censorship and we see ‘Okay, it’s good.’ It’s okay to make this movie [starting] last year,” Shin said. ”We want people to come to China to make movies. It is not so strict as we might think. If you can handle the topic in the right way, it should be okay.”

Here’s the trailer for the film:

(email readers, please go here to see the clip)

I don’t know about you, but I’m anxious to see this movie when it is released in June.

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Going to Tianjin? Do This!

A Catholic Bell in Tianjin

Tianjin Churches

Breakfast in Tianjin

A Catholic Bell in Tianjin

“Why are you so interested in bells?” asked Father Z, the priest at Xikai Catholic Church in Tianjin.  “There’s nothing especially interesting about bells.”

Until that point I had let my Chinese friend do all the talking, explaining to him that this foreigner from Beijing was doing research on old church bells. This, however, was a question I wanted to answer myself.

I told him about finding the old bell in Yibin and how I believed that each surviving bell in China has a story and that embedded in that story is the story of God’s love for the church in China.

His countenance immediately changed and I moved from being simply a foreigner who was a pest to a foreigner to be helped, and perhaps even liked.

As we kept talking he started rummaging through a notebook on his desk, looking for something.

He told us that there were old bells in the bell tower, one bronze, one steel, that dated back to the early 1900’s, but resolutely refused my Chinese friends entreaties to let us go up and see them.

“We do have a small bell I can let you see,” he said, as he found the paper he had been searching for. He handed it to us and said “Here, take a picture of this.”  It was a hand-written note that said “I found this bell in Shandong Province, and want to give it to the church.” It was signed and dated December 14, 2009.

The bell had been found by a reclycler who decided that the bell would have value to a church, so rather than sell it, he gave it to the Tianjin church.

“Would you be interested in seeing this bell?” Father Z. asked

I’m sure you can guess our response.

So Father Z, with his assistant in tow, took us to a shed behind the church building to see this old iron bell that was sitting under a table. It was too heavy to move out from under the table so we had to content ourselves with crawling around underneath to get some photos.

The bell has Chinese writing on it, indicating that it was made for a Catholic church in a specific town.

We are still trying to get in touch with the man who gave the bell to the church.