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When you ride a train, do you ever wonder how much people have toiled and worked to create the tracks that you ride across? Rocky Mountain Express is a stunning IMAX film about how a man named William Cornelius Van Horne, the President of Canadian Pacific Railway, began an ambitious project to create a cross country railroad across Canada, and facing the greatest challenge to his plans: the Rocky Mountains. This film shows a train speeding through the mountains, and it seemingly goes back in time as it revisits the triumphs and tragedy that went into the making of the railroad.
Rocky Mountain Express is a breathtaking film, photographed in real IMAX FILM instead of the digital cameras we use today! This was an incredible feat for the filmmakers because they had to position a massive camera to take shots of a train crossing amazing mountainscapes and treacherous cliff-sides that will leave you gripping your seat! One part showed the brilliant ingenuity of the engineers by making double spiral loops tunneling through the mountain to gain ground on the riverbank. The movie also covered important history about the age of steam. I give this film 4 starfish, it is “Perrific!”
I got to interview Pietro Serapiglia, the producer of the film at Reuben H. Fleet Science Center where the film premiered on Feb 28, 2013 at the Heikoff Giant Dome Theater. I asked him how he became interested in filmmaking. “When I was a little boy, I used to like watching my favorite TV shows,” said Pietro,” I left high school at 17 and started as a mail boy at the National Film Board of Canada, then working in the lab developing films, and became a productions manager in the 1980s.” His favorite movies are science fiction, including “Planet of the Apes,” and Bruce Lee was his hero and inspiration.
Pietro has had an amazing 35-year career, working with director Stephen Low on many exciting IMAX films. I asked him how “Rocky Mountain Express” came to be. “Stephen was always fascinated with trains and wanted to do an IMAX film about trains,” he said, “But before that, we had to make our first film about a ship, ‘Titanica,’ then about racing cars, ‘Super Speedway,’ then about fighter planes, ‘Fighter Pilot.’ After that, we were ready to make ‘Rocky Mountain Express,’ which took us FIVE years to make!”
It is certainly worth the efforts, as “Rocky Mountain Express” won Best Film in a tie with another of my favorite IMAX film “To the Arctic” (also shown at RH Fleet now) from the Giant Screen Cinema Association last year.
Pietro’s next film project is called “City of the Future,” about bringing light rail into North America. Light rail is highly developed in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Europe. “Anything to reduce air polution and traffic jam is a good idea,” said Pietro.
Pietro said he didn’t like trains until he worked on this film. After watching “Rocky Mountain Express,” I really look forward to boarding the steam locomotive and experience the thrill as I saw in the film!
The moral: The human ingenuity triumphs over impossible obstacles.
Perry Chen is the youngest award-winning film/ entertainment critic & animator, artist, speaker, and entertainment personality. He started writing movie reviews at 8 using a kid-friendly starfish rating system, under the guidance of his mom Dr. Zhu Shen and his 3rd grade teacher Ms. Harris. Perry’s debut on the CBS Evening News in 2009 made him a national sensation. He has been featured extensively on local, national, and international media, including NPR, Fox, CNN, NBC, The Guardian, The China Press, and many more. He has interviewed prominent filmmakers at film festivals, red carpet premieres, and press junkets. He won a prestigious “Excellence in Journalism Award” at the San Diego Press Club in 2010 as its youngest member. Perry currently writes movie reviews for the Animation World Network, San Diego Union Tribune, Amazing Kids! Magazine, and his own Perry’s Previews website with a combined readership of over 2 million worldwide. Perry and his family live in the community of Carmel Valley San Diego.
Dr. Zhu Shen’s love for the movies started when she was a young girl, growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution where watching movies was the only entertainment available to the masses. Her journey to become a filmmaker took a convoluted path. She studied medicine at Peking Union Medical College before coming to the US and earning a Ph.D. in biochemistry from University of Colorado, and then an MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson School. She is a producer of the upcoming documentary feature “Average Joe on the Raw,” about journey into raw food and health. Dr. Shen is also an award-winning biotech executive, author, speaker, China business expert featured on national and trade media including CBS, Fox, Business Week, Pharmaceutical Executive, and more. She has worked at IBM, Bayer, Chiron, Immusol, and is the CEO of BioForesight, consulting on cross-Pacific life science business. *Photos of Perry Chen and Zhu Shen by Brian Bostrom.