Martial arts action movie filmed in Lansing area shows in theaters this weekend
Bryce Airgood
Lansing State Journal

From left are "Exile" director of photography Andrew Tebeau, assistant director and lead actor Nuam Boih, co-writer Anneli Mung, co-writer and director Thang Mung, and executive producer Marc Hemingway.

If you’d asked Lansing resident Thang Mung three years ago whether he believed in divine intervention, he would’ve said he believed in God, but he wasn’t so sure about that whole divine intervention thing.

His life has had many ups and downs. He, his parents, seven siblings and other family members had to flee from Burma because of religious persecution. They applied for refugee status in the U.S. in 2006 when he was 14 and eventually resettled in Lansing in about 2010.

Now he’s not only blessed with a beautiful home and family, he’s also able to do what he loves: make movies. And his second feature-length film, “Exile,” a martial arts action film loosely based on the life of Biblical character Moses, will be showing in Michigan theaters this weekend.

“I think (I) actually experienced that, God's work, divine work, through last production and this production,” he said.

“Exile” is about 1 hour, 25 minutes long. Showtimes are scheduled Friday to Sunday at Celebration Cinema Lansing, Celebration Cinema Rivertown in Grandville and Celebration Cinema Crossroads in Portage.

A banner for the movie "Exile" which was filmed in Greater Lansing and will have showtimes at Celebration Cinema Lansing from Dec. 2 to Dec. 4.
The movie was mostly filmed in Greater Lansing - in places like Charlotte and Haslett - though the crew did go to Muskegon for one shot. Mung, who directed the film and co-wrote it with his wife, Anneli, said he wanted to draw attention and attract people to Michigan.

The movie is bilingual with parts in English and Zomi Chin - the native language of one of Myanmar's Christian ethnic minorities.

The action-packed martial arts film has a redemptive message of kindness and follows a ninja assassin who is forced to leave behind everything he's ever known. But he finds new life and love in unexpected places, according to the film’s description.

Thang Mung said the crew wanted to make a meaningful movie, something with a good message. Plus, they love action movies, he said.

Anneli Mung said one of the movie's target audiences is Zomi speakers in the United States, most of whom are Burmese refugees who fled political and religious persecution.

From left. "Exile" co-writer Anneli Mung, with husband, co-writer, and director Thang Mung.
She said the story, the character development, and the great action sequences should resonate with viewers. The filmmakers' goal was never to tell a story only Christians would be interested in, but something appealing and fun for everybody with a message about the love of God.

"If we made a movie that people went to and said, ‘Oh, my goodness, this is really Christian, this feels really preachy,’ we would feel that we had failed,” she said.

The film’s director of photography, Andrew Tebeau, said it’s a positive, uplifting Christian-based movie, but the action and thrills don’t take a backseat. All the staples and classic tropes that every great martial arts movie has are there.

The film’s executive producer, Marc Hemingway, said the crew brought in martial arts experts from around the world and actors came from other states, including Texas and California, to work on the film.

"Exile" executive producer Marc Hemingway speaks at Celebration Cinema Lansing, where the film will be showing Dec. 2 through Dec. 4.
“We have actors who’ve traveled the country to come here to Lansing and we're just so thankful to be able to make a Hollywood-level film here in Michigan,” he said.

There were about 100 people involved in the film. Many, like Tebeau, volunteered their time to do grueling, 14-hour workdays for weeks on end to work with the limited time the crew had with the international talent.

Thang Mung and Hemingway started making films together the past couple years, releasing their first feature-length film last year. They started working on the script for “Exile” this past February or March with an entire production timeline of about eight months.

Thang Mung estimated the cash value of the film is about $100,000, but thanks to all of the volunteers they only spent about $15,000.

"Exile" lead actor, editor, and assistant director Nuam Boih, pictured in the makeshift editing bay at her cousin's home in Lansing.
Hemingway credits Thang Mung, saying the director is not only very talented, but also someone with integrity who people want to work with.

“He has such a fun-loving, creative personality that he attracts energy and attracts enthusiasm and that's just something that you can't find just anywhere,” he said. “So I would say that it's because of his creative, fun personality, combined with his talent and humility, that he just magnetizes people and people are attracted to what he's doing.”

And that energy isn’t ending any time soon. Hemingway said they’re planning to work on more feature-length movies in 2023.

Thang Mung’s cousin Nuam Boih, who was both the assistant director and leading actress for “Exile,” is working on the script for the movie’s sequel.

“We are planning to shoot next summer,” she said. “That’s the goal.”

Contact Bryce Airgood at 517-267-0448 or Follow her on Twitter @bairgood123.
Martial Arts Moses...