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October 27, 2009

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'Butterfly Professor' in Magic Cube

XU Jinglei has had many public identities - actress, director, writer, producer, singer, owner of one of the world's most-visited blogs. The 36-year-old Chinese dynamo might have the thickest CV on the planet.

She will add another identity for the Shanghai World Expo.

Xu will star as a "butterfly professor" in an eight-minute fantasy film shown in a 360-degree panoramic theater at Shanghai Corporate Joint Pavilion. It's known as the "Magic Cube" made of transparent recyclable materials and represents a vision of corporate responsibility in achieving a better city and a better life.

She will guide visitors through a dream-like interactive journey in pursuit of a city dream and a better future.

Upon entering, visitors will walk through a long gallery with multimedia showing Shanghai's development from a small fishing town to a current metropolis. At the end of the gallery they will "meet" a virtual old man and his granddaughter talking about some social problems caused by the rapid urban development.

Then the "butterfly professor" will appear in the center of the pavilion, again guiding visitors to possible solutions shown in various exhibits in various pavilions.

This will be an interactive section as well as the pavilion highlight.

"I am very interested in the character who is wise, beautiful and somewhat mysterious," says Xu.

Though she has created many impressive roles on TV and in films, the "butterfly professor" will be an experiment, she says.

Xu became well known overseas after she won the best director award for "A Letter From an Unknown Woman" at the 2004 San Sebastian International Film Festival in Spain.

"I'm proud to be part of the innovative and environmentally friendly pavilion as well as Shanghai Expo," she says.

Xu was the ideal choice for the role because she is an actress of wisdom, confidence and diligence, says Gu Shuhang, president of the pavilion. Her role represents the wisdom and future of Shanghai corporations, who shoulder the responsibility of creating a better city life, he says.

The film aims to prod viewers to think about their responsibility in urban development and explore ways to tackle challenges, he says.

The butterfly is the central image of the film because it represents natural transformation in its life cycle from a larva to a beautiful flying insect. It is a metaphor for the transformation of local corporations from small to giant, said the pavilion's chief designer, Edwin Schlossberg, principal of the US-based firm ESI Design.

The film is expected to be finished by the year's end.

The pavilion, nicknamed "The Magic Cube" is funded by about 40 medium and large local state-owned enterprises with around 300 million yuan (US$44 million). The 4,000-square-meter environmentally friendly structure is largely transparent and made from recyclable materials.

Virtual "butterflies" will flitter about and guide visitors with multimedia visual effects. The concept is from "Zhuang Zhou's Dreaming of Butterfly," or "Zhuang Zhou Meng Die," an ancient Chinese story about a Taoist who dreams he is a butterfly.


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