Tuesday Topic: ZhouZhou, ORCHESTRA CONDUCTOR
DS Dreams Big
I was really inclined to title this blog “OMG.” It would have been so appropriate. I feel you’ll echo that same thought by the time you finish reading this. And I’m putting out a call: if anyone knows where we can actually buy this biopic (movie trailer link is below), which apparently is shown at Chinese Movie Festivals and can in fact be purchased somewhere, let me know and I’ll pass the information on!
ZhouZhou is a Chinese man born with Down syndrome in China in 1978. His culture at that time was an even tougher gig to handle than being born in the USA that same year; in the words of one article (linked below), he was born into a country “where people with mental handicaps were misunderstood and marginalized.” His childhood treatment by others bears testimony to that very difficult truth; but his family and friends were devoted. His father is a cellist in a local classical orchestra, and ZhouZhou grew up at his father’s practicing elbow.
One day, a student making a documentary film noticed ZhouZhou miming the conductor’s movements exactly, as the conductor directed a rehearsal of Bizet’s overture to the opera Carmen. The assistant jokingly asked ZhouZhou if he would like to conduct the piece, and ZhouZhou picked up the baton. The orchestra went along with it; a stunned silence followed his performance, and the rest is history.
From a link below: “Today, following performances with the National Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, ZhouZhou is a respected conductor worldwide and is known as the only performer of his caliber who cannot read music.”
As I said, OMG.
Here’s the movie trailer; the trailer alone is awesome. I have watched it over and over. ZhouZhou movie trailer. And here are two article links for you; I’ve copied the most important parts below, but follow the links if you want to see it all.
“Zhou Zhou the film tells the true story of the struggles and prejudice faced by Zhou Zhou, a young man with Down syndrome who faced prejudice and rejection during his childhood before he became famous for his innate ability to conduct classical orchestras.
“Born in Wuhan in 1978, Zhou Zhou grew up listening to classical music, both on tape and during the countless orchestra rehearsals he attended because his father was a member of a local orchestra.
“Music was one of the few pleasures in his life, having been teased and taunted in shocking ways as a young child by some of his peers and dismissed as an “idiot” by some adults who refused to let their children play with him, lest they too be labelled an “idiot.”
“Everything changed in the late 1990s after a documentary student, looking to make a movie about the local orchestra, noticed Zhou Zhou mimicking the conductor’s movements exactly during rehearsal.
“His skill as a conductor became national news in China and after being invited by to perform at the Spring Festival Gala in 1999, Zhou Zhou achieved international fame one year later when he conducted China’s National Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.
“What made this film so special and emotionally moving to many who saw it at MovieTowne PoS was the bond Zhou Zhou has with his family and members of the orchestra to which his father belongs, as he faces life in a time and place where people with mental handicaps were misunderstood and marginalised. This young man’s family and friends never abandoned him, in fact they stood by him at all times and encouraged him to pursue his artistic dreams in whatever form they took, be it poetry, dance or ultimately, becoming the conductor of an orchestra.”
“Based on the life of Chinese musical conductor, Yizhou Hu (ZhouZhou), the movie provides a sensitive insight into the modest lifestyle of Houpei Hu, his family and their community in Wuhan, Hubei Province.
“Confirmation that their newborn son is a child with Down’s syndrome could have ended in tragedy during a poignant, elegantly-shot moment in the story. But, coming to terms with ZhouZou’s condition includes the eventual birth of a second child, a girl, and Houpei’s willingness to allow his son entry into his life as a musician in a local, classical orchestra.
“A steep, narrow staircase leads to a tiny bedroom in the Houpei household. A shiny, red double-door leads out onto a dusty street where gossipers discuss the playful boy and his odd ways. And a picture of Beethoven hangs over the tiny desk where Hu pores over musical scores, often with ZhouZhou seated on the floor next to him.
“Rather unexpectedly, Bizet’s Carmen Overture forms part of a triumphant musical backdrop to much of ZhouZhou’s exploits as a conductor, first at the insistence of an assistant at Houpei’s claustrophobic music studio, then when the young musician is invited to perform at the Spring Festival Gala in Beijing.
“The invitation followed the airing of the documentary The World of ZhouZhou which resulted from a chance encounter with Chinese journalist, Zhang Yiqing, while miming instructions to his father’s orchestra during a rehearsal.
“With an ailing mother back home, ZhouZhou interrupts the Beijing gig to return to her bedside in Wuhan where he resolves, at her insistence, to continue performing on her behalf.
“Today, following performances with the National Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, ZhouZhou is a respected conductor worldwide and is known as the only performer of his caliber who cannot read music.”
Help Us Find This Movie!
I would so love to own this movie, and I know many others would, too; so if any of you can sleuth out ordering info, please let me know! Message me at my FB page, Down Syndrome Reading with Natalie Hale.