Sometimes special things confound categorization. We believe that what makes Cinderella Moon hard to characterize (is it a kids film? an art film? a Chinese film?) is precisely what makes it special.

Here are the questions we’ve heard most often…

Q: Is this film a documentary?

A: No. It’s a full-length feature film based on the world’s first telling of the Cinderella story. As a child-like allegory in the style of magic realism, it incorporates elements of ancient Chinese cosmology and fits squarely in the tradition of classic fairy tales. It was shot in the Shangri-La area of China’s Yunnan province with an all-Chinese cast, an American director, and an international crew.

Q: Is it a kids film?

A: Cinderella Moon is a movie that both kids and their parents will enjoy. There’s no sex, violence or foul language but there’s plenty of humor and fun.

But, like all classic fairy tales, it deals with hard reality and doesn’t sugar-coat its moral — that girls are as good as boys, and when they aren’t treated as equals, everyone suffers. Like the anime films of Hayao Miyazaki, it remains accessible and kid-friendly, but it doesn’t talk down to children.

Q: Is it an art film?

A: That depends on what “art film” means to you. Because of its attention to aesthetics, many have described our movie as an art film. Audiences have consistently commented on its beauty, authentic detail and how cinematic it is.

But, to many people, “art film” also means: high-brow, hard to follow, or esoteric. Cinderella Moon may be unique, but it has a mainstream sensibility. It takes us to a magical world, puts a new twist on plot points and characters we already find delightful, and has an underdog heroine whose journey ends in triumph against all odds.

Q: Will I have to read subtitles?

A: Not unless you want to! There are two versions of the film: one in Mandarin and one in English.

Q: What’s the relationship between Cinderella Moon and Half the Sky?

A: There’s no legal relationship. The film was produced through a Hong Kong-based for-profit production company, and Half the Sky is a global non-profit that was formed to help Chinese orphans.

But when Richard Bowen, a founding Director of Half the Sky, discovered that this quintessential orphan story had originated in China, he was deeply inspired to make Cinderella Moon as both an artistic project and as a vehicle to help further the work of Half the Sky.

The foundation is a beneficiary of a generous portion of Cinderella Moon’s profits. In addition, the producers are currently offering a limited offer to purchase DVDs and BLU-RAYs through Half the Sky’s web store. One half of the proceeds of every sale will directly fund programs that help potential Cinderellas currently living in Chinese orphanages.

Q: Is it just a Chinese version of the Cinderella I already know?

A: No.The original Cinderella story (768 AD) on which our film is based takes Cinderella back to her roots in ancient China. It’s a classic fairy tale with a strong moral, real actors and real settings… not a cartoon in any sense of the word. Its magic realism style makes the very notion of a fairy tale — that magical things can happen in the real world — pronounced and powerful.

Cinderella’s familiar plot points and characters abound: an orphaned girl, her stepmother and stepsister, a dance, a lost shoe, a Prince Charming (who is a King, here), a fairy godmother, even a little animal helper — but everything familiar has an unexpected twist.

The film also uses elements of Chinese cosmology to enrich and make the original story more authentic. In the ancient Chinese worldview, what happened on earth was reflected in the heavens, so mistreatment of girls on earth could cause catastrophic planetary effects, endangering all life. What’s at stake for Cinderella Moon‘s heroine is nothing less than the survival of the world.

Ironically, the original Cinderella, more than 1,200 years-old, reveals a story far more relevant to us today than the 1950’s Disney version with its ideas that the world was safe in the hands of only men, and that a girl’s highest hope should be to have Prince Charming sweep her off her feet.