DC Chi­nese film fes­ti­val of­fers a win­dow on life’s wide di­ver­sity

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By LIU CHANG in Wash­ing­ton changliu@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Yibin Cai, founder and direc­tor of the DC Chi­nese Film Fes­ti­val, can hardly be­lieve the scale the event has grown to in so short a time.

A non­profit event ded­i­cated to dis­cov­er­ing ex­cel­lence in Chi­nese cinema around the world and en­cour­ag­ing cul­tural di­ver­sity through film, the fes­ti­val has blos­somed into an in­ter­na­tional gath­er­ing that this year on Sept 4-7 will show­case 54 out­stand­ing films from eight coun­tries, se­lected from 329 works from 29 coun­tries and re­gions, all ei­ther about China or made by Chi­nese artists.

The films are all bilin­gual with English sub­ti­tles. The screen lo­cales in­clude the US Navy Me­mo­rial Her­itage Cen­ter, the Wil­son Cen­ter, the Smith­so­nian Freer Gallery and Amer­i­can Univer­sity’s Malsi Doyle and Michael For­man Theater.

The sched­ule fea­tures screen­ings of five doc­u­men­taries, nine doc­u­men­tary shorts, nine experimental shorts, nine an­i­ma­tion shorts, four nar­ra­tive films and 18 nar­ra­tive shorts.

There will also be three panel dis­cus­sions with ex­perts on women and film, les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, and trans­gen­der (LGBT) is­sues in film and en­vi­ron­men­tal film­mak­ing in China. Panelists will dis­cuss the chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties faced by film­mak­ers who doc­u­ment and ex­plore th­ese is­sues


first fes­ti­val was ac­tu­ally a short-video con­test across the ocean between China and the US, with par­tic­i­pants com­posed mainly of young peo­ple and stu­dents.” YIBIN CAI FOUNDER AND DIREC­TOR OF THE DC CHI­NESE FILM FES­TI­VAL

through film.

The Golden Gate Girl has been cho­sen as the fes­ti­val’s open­ing film as a trib­ute to Chi­nese Amer­i­can film pi­o­neer Es­ther Eng, an openly gay fe­male direc­tor who bridged dif­fer­ent cul­tures and na­tion­al­i­ties in her sto­ries. Golden Gate Girl ex­plores Eng’s life and tur­bu­lent times as she crossed the bound­aries of lan­guage, cul­ture, race and gen­der on both sides of the Pacific.

Yibin Cai founded the fes­ti­val in 2011 when he was a PhD stu­dent in bi­o­log­i­cal sciences at the Univer­sity of Mary­land. It started as an experimental video con­test among lo­cal stu­dents. The cov­er­age ex­panded to New York and Cal­i­for­nia.

Col­lab­o­rat­ing with me­dia like Tu­dou, a well-known Chi­nese video-sharing web­site that has cre­ated a video screen­ing area for the fes­ti­val, a con­nec­tion with do­mes­tic film-lovers and film­mak­ers was cre­ated.

“Our first fes­ti­val was ac­tu­ally a short-video con­test across the ocean between China and the US, with par­tic­i­pants com­posed mainly of young peo­ple and stu­dents,” Cai said.

Most of the films sub­mit­ted to the first fes­ti­val are avail­able for view­ing on Tu­dou. Eight medium- to full-length films are screened at uni­ver­si­ties.

On June 10, 2012, a film awards cer­e­mony was held in the Univer­sity of Mary­land, which be­came a turn­ing point for the fes­ti­val, as Cai and his col­leagues de­cided to make some­thing big­ger hap­pen.

The or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee started to re­cruit mem­bers be­yond film en­thu­si­asts, more pro­fes­sion­als from the in­dus­try, to join in. Xiaozhou Xie, deputy direc­tor of the fes­ti­val, is a me­dia grad­u­ate from Amer­i­can Univer­sity.

Meng Li, an­other deputy direc­tor, is a direc­tor with CCTV Amer­ica and Zhao Liu, direc­tor of pro­gram­ming, is a filmmaker him­self, who also sub­mit­ted work to the first fes­ti­val and won the Experimental Pi­o­neer Award.

The film en­tries sub­mit­ted to the sec­ond fes­ti­val this year are be­ing held to much higher stan­dards than in round one. Cin­e­matic crafts­man­ship, con­tent, theme, the art of per­for­mance and so­cial sig­nif­i­cance are all taken into con­sid­er­a­tion by the judges.

The jury in­cludes dig­ni­taries such as: Peggy Chiao, a film pro­ducer, writer and pro­fes­sor, who is con­sid­ered one of the im­por­tant fig­ures in shap­ing New Tai­wan Cinema in the 1980s and 1990s and a ma­jor force in se­ries; Carma Hin­ton, a doc­u­men­tary filmmaker and Clarence J. Robin­son Pro­fes­sor of Vis­ual Cul­ture and Chi­nese Stud­ies at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity; Yizhong Li, a doc­toral ad­viser at School of Me­dia and Film De­sign of Shang­hai Jiao­Tong Univer­sity and deputy direc­tor at the Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Film Stud­ies at Shang­hai Jiao­Tong Univer­sity.

Cai said the fes­ti­val aims to serve film­mak­ers, rec­og­nize im­por­tant works of emerg­ing tal­ents and pro­vide a show­case for them to demon­strate orig­i­nal­ity in their work, which is also the core value of the or­ga­ni­za­tion, adding that great film works are free of af­fec­ta­tion and down to earth.

“Per­son­ally, I don’t think films can change peo­ple’s lives,” Cai said. “How­ever, it will pro­vide a new per­spec­tive and mean­ing­ful ex­pe­ri­ence, which will en­rich life’s hori­zon, let­ting peo­ple learn about a more di­ver­si­fied life.”

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