Apple has tapped mainland Chinese director Zhang Meng for “The Comeback,” a heartwarming film that is releasing in time for the Lunar New Year holidays. It was shot entirely using the latest iPhone devices.
The company’s Chinese New Year movie tradition is now into its fifth edition. Apple’s 2021 film “Nian” was shot by “The Farewell” director Lulu Wang.
“The Comeback,” which weighs in at 23 minutes (watch above or on YouTube), is a multi-genre movie about making a movie. It mixes up Hollywood sci-fi, traditional Kung Fu action and nostalgic feel-good comedy. Apple says it is “set to inspire and encourage everyone to never stop believing in their dreams — even if that dream is as far away as Mars.”
The new film also serves as a showcase for the video capabilities of the latest iPhone. These include stabilization, slo-mo, time-lapse and Dolby Vision capture and edit. Zhang and director of photography Luo Dong used only the three native cameras of the iPhone 13 Pro, without any additional lenses.
Apple is also releasing a behind-the-scenes look at how “The Comeback” was made. The making-of shows how Zhang and Luo utilized features including cinematic mode, macro, filmed in low light and used the phone’s ultra-wide and telephoto cameras.
Zhang is best known for 2010 feature film “The Piano in a Factory,” which he wrote and directed. Another never-say-die tale, the movie about a factory worker who struggles to build his musically-inclined daughter the instrument she needs, earned numerous prizes at film festivals including in Tokyo, Miami and Sydney. “Piano” was also the basis for a limited TV series that played in China from 2014.
Apple has a deep, complex and, at times, controversial relationship with China. The country is one of its largest markets for iPhones, where the brand remains aspirational and premium-priced. And much of Apple’s manufacturing supply chain for iPhones, iPads and Mac computers is based in mainland China and Taiwan.
The new film, however, emphasizes the positive. Apple offers the following synopsis: “A young stunt-double, who dreams of being behind the camera not just in front of it, returns home for Chinese New Year to spend time with his father while nursing an injury and escaping his perceived failure. The villagers celebrate his return as the ‘big director’ and he is reluctantly convinced to help the village create a movie of their own, to make their unknown village ‘internet famous.’ What it really does is bring the villagers together as they craft and create a movie set on Mars — writing the story, making costumes, building sets and setting up stunts — and reignites the young man’s belief in becoming a director and fulfilling his filmmaking dreams.”
“The Comeback” was produced in association with Apple ad agency TBWAMedia Arts Lab Shanghai. It features an original score by Varqa Buehrer.
In addition to “Nian,” Apple’s previous films marking the Chinese New Year are “Daughter” (2020), “The Bucket” (2019) and “Three Minutes” (2018).