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Inner Mongolia's frigid north proves fertile ground for hot topics

Acclaimed films highlight environmental concerns and physical extremes

In "Anima," a recently released environmentalist feature by first-time director Cao Jinling, searing indictments of working conditions in Inner Mongolia alternate with worshipful portrayals of the wilderness. (Courtesy of Fortissimo Films)

Move over, Hollywood. Forget thrillers set on the French Riviera. A brace of recent films is helping to launch a surprising new cinematic capital: the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia.

No matter that instead of a balmy set in a California back lot, China's far north offers unbelievably "harsh filming conditions," according to Cao Jinling, director of "Anima," a recently released environmentalist feature. "Most of the shooting was done in winter, with temperatures under minus 40 C. All the crew had to overcome physical challenges, especially the actors, who couldn't shiver or it would have affected their performance. Bears, mountain floods, and snowstorms were also real dangers during the shoot," says Cao.

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