Ocean Heaven

Ocean Heaven
Directed by Xue Xiaolu
Produced by
Written by Xue Xiaolu
Music by Joe Hisaishi
Cinematography Christopher Doyle
Edited by
  • Chang Suk Ping
  • Yang Hongyu
  • Edko Films Limited
  • BDI Films Inc.
  • Beijing H&H Communication Medium Limited
  • Nice Select Ltd.
Distributed by Edko Films Limited
Release dates
  • 24 June 2010 (2010-06-24) (Hong Kong)
Running time
96 minutes
  • China
  • Hong Kong
Language Mandarin
Budget 7 million yuan ($1,043,474 us dollars)[1]

Ocean Heaven (Chinese: 海洋天堂; pinyin: Hǎiyáng Tiāntáng; Jyutping: hoi2 joeng4 tin1 tong4) is a 2010 Chinese-Hong Kong drama film starring martial arts superstar Jet Li in his first full drama role. It also co-stars Taiwanese actress Gwei Lun-mei, who previously starred in Jay Chou's Secret. The movie was filmed in Qingdao at the Qingdao Polar Ocean World and received promotion from the Qingdao council.

It was announced that it was to be released in spring 2010, but the release date was pushed back to 24 June 2010, which opened the 2010 Shanghai International Film Festival on 2 June. Jet Li wants this film to get a good message across and promote the works with autism as well as the works of his charity ‘The One Foundation’.

Xue Xiaolu, a teacher at the Beijing Film Academy, wrote and directed the 7 million yuan (US$1 million) movie. The first-time director has been a volunteer for 14 years with Beijing Stars and Rain, a non-governmental educational organization for children with autism. The story was mostly based on her personal real life and experience. She said, "With the addition of actors like Gwei Lun-Mei and Wen Zhang, I am even more confident in the film production."[2]

At first nobody was willing to take a risk on such a non-commercial script until film mogul Bill Kong, the man behind Hero (Yingxiong) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Wohu Canglong) stepped in. It saw the inclusion of award winning cinematographer Christopher Doyle (Hero, 2046, In the Mood for Love), composer Joe Hisaishi (Spirited Away, Departures, Hana-bi) and production designer Yee Chung-Man (Anna Magdalena, Curse of the Golden Flower).


Ocean Heaven is about a terminally ill father, Sam Wong (Jet Li) as he works his job in an aquarium and struggles to look after his 21-year-old son Dafu, who has autism (Wen Zhang). Sam has single-handedly brought up his son since his wife died 14 years ago and looks after him day and night attempting to help him learn basic tasks in order to care for himself, as well as searching for a home for his son before he passes away. As the story progresses, the growing relationship between father and son as well as the community around them become clearer. Ling ling (Gwei Lun-mei) plays the role of a clown who is part of a small traveling circus (they perform in the aquarium for a short period of time) and who gets on well with Dafu, leading to a close friendship between them.

Though Dafu struggles to learn many basic tasks, Sam perseveres in teaching his son the tasks that he will need to know how to perform himself once his father dies. Meanwhile, the principal of the boarding school for mentally challenged children that Dafu attended as a child finally recommends Dafu to a newly opened institution where he can stay after his father dies.

Dafu continues learning. Ling Ling, knowing that she is about to have to leave with her circus, teaches Dafu to pick up the phone in the aquarium when he hears it, and she will talk to him. Sam, for the first time, swims in the aquarium with his son, dressed up as a sea turtle, telling his son not to be afraid when he is gone; he will be like the turtles in the aquarium, always swimming close by with him.

Ling Ling leaves with her circus. Sam eventually dies, and his funeral is attended by close friends and family. After the funeral, Dafu is seen doing some of the things that his father struggled so much to teach him with success. He cooks by himself, knows how to ride the bus, and picks up the phone when Ling Ling calls. It is implied that from then on, Dafu will know how to lead his life on his own, though he still has Sam's old friends helping him along the way.


Promotion and work

Jet Li

Jet Li promoted the film by visiting the dolphins at Hong Kong's Ocean Park with a small group of adults who were intellectually challenged or had autism.[1]

Jet Li also was quoted saying "Nowadays everyone is making blockbusters. Making a seven million Chinese yuan (1 million US dollars) movie requires a lot of sincerity", Li told reporters in Hong Kong. "This movie is about sincerity. It shows that in this day and age that filmmakers are willing to do something for society." The father's selfless love for his son touched Li, a father of four children himself: "I cried a lot when reading the script."[3]

"I hope everyone can examine what is the most important relationship in life – the relationship between parent and child", he said.[1] "I met some autistic children last year when I was doing charity work. When I read the script, I cried. I hope to express gratitude to all the parents in the world through the film."[4]

Jet Li did not take any pay for the film.[5]

Jet Li hoped the movie will encourage people pay more attention and dedicate their compassion to charity. TIME magazine named Jet Li one of its Most Influential People this year for his work with his One Foundation. Li revealed that four or five years ago, his nephew had been diagnosed with autism. His nephew is now better, but this incident made him realize how important it is to offer attention and care to those who are have been diagnosed and their families.[6]

Li admitted that it was not easy to interpret his character. Because Jet Li’s father died when he was two years old, he didn’t understand the concept of the word "father" for a long time. When he was filming The Shaolin Temple, there was a line where he had to yell bà ba (dad), which he found himself unable to say: "In the end, the director changed it to diē (another word for dad). I thought diē had nothing to do with me, so I could say it. It wasn’t until I became a father that I clearly understood what this role of a father meant."[1][6] Another difficulty is that Li can't swim, but he eventually swam as the story required.[7]

Wen Zhang

In order to portray this character well, Wen Zhang (playing Dafu) went swimming every day. He previously did not know how to swim, but because swimming and diving are his character’s strong points, he became an expert swimmer. He also visited an autism school every day, working to understand the students’ way of thinking.


China Movie Channel Media Awards 2010

Theme songs


Ocean Heaven has had particularly good reviews, getting very high ratings. The film also received a 4/5 from the China Post site with a detailed and heart-felt review.[8]


  1. 1 2 3 4 Archived 9 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. Film Review; Hujiang is China's largest online school
  3. Jet Li plays with heart in "Ocean Heaven". News.xinhuanet.com (2010-06-17). Retrieved on 2014-05-12.
  4. screen-power.com. screen-power.com. Retrieved on 2014-05-12.
  5. 30 June 2010 HKMDB Daily News
  6. 1 2 dramaddicts.com - de beste bron van informatie over dramaddicts. Deze website is te koop!. Cfensi.dramaddicts.com (2010-05-22). Retrieved on 2014-05-12.
  7. 薛晓路:有爱的地方就有天堂. Women of China. [Chinese]
  8. Ocean Heaven (海洋天堂). The China Post (2010-08-27). Retrieved on 2014-05-12.
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