Tall or­der: 10 min­utes, 10 cities, 20 days

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - ByWANG KAIHAO wangkai­hao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Big-name for­eign di­rec­tors have brought China into fo­cus since Ital­ian Michelan­gelo An­to­nioni’s doc­u­men­tary Chung Kuo, Cina forged im­pres­sions of the coun­try that have per­sisted since the 1970s.

Now, it is time for up-and-com­ing in­ter­na­tional film stu­dents to present China in their eyes.

Six rep­re­sen­ta­tive short doc­u­men­taries by for­eign stu­dents from the Look­ing China: In­ter­na­tional Youth Film Pro­ject were screened at Bei­jingNor­malUniver­sity last week.

The univer­sity’s Academy for the In­ter­na­tional Com­mu­ni­ca­tion of Chi­nese Cul­ture has run the pro­gram since 2011 to broaden bud­ding film­mak­ers’ un­der­stand­ing of the coun­try.

The doc­u­men­taries ex­am­ine as­pect­soft­he­coun­try­suchas­food, tra­di­tional op­erasand­fam­ily struc­ture.

More than 100 stu­dents from 20 univer­si­ties in 19 coun­tries shot 10-minute doc­u­men­taries for what has be­come one of China’s largest in­ter­na­tional mi­cro-video events. Each doc­u­men­tary was shot within 20 days.

Ten cities, in­clud­ing Bei­jing, Qing­dao, in Shan­dong province, and Hangzhou, cap­i­tal of Zhe­jiang province, served as shoot­ing lo­ca­tions. The best pro­duc­tions will win Gold Lens awards next year.

“Some­one sug­gested we in­vite in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed di­rec­tors to boost our global in­flu­ence,” says the univer­sity’s pro­fes­sor Huang Huilin, whose Huilin Foun­da­tion sup­ports the pro­ject.

“I’d rather not. We’ll con­tinue to fo­cus solely on young stu­dents who are go­ing through a crit­i­cal pe­riod in form­ingth­eir val­ue­sand­world­views. We hope their con­tact with Chi­nese peo­ple will ben­e­fit their growth.”

She ex­pects the pro­duc­tions will also give Chi­nese new per­spec­tives on their cul­ture, since they­may take for granted many facets elab­o­rated upon in the for­eign stu­dents’ films.

Is­raeli Maya Meiri’s Ev­er­last­ing Long­ing, for in­stance, ex­plores Tang Dy­nasty (AD 618-907) po­ems’ con­tri­bu­tions to mod­ern so­ci­ety in Xi’an, cap­i­tal of Shaanxi province, which was then the im­pe­rial cap­i­tal. The city was known as Chang’an dur­ing the apex of Chi­nese po­etry, which flour­ished dur­ing one of China’s most pros­per­ous dy­nas­ties.

“Xi’an is rich in history, but many Chi­nese find it dif­fi­cult to tease out fresh an­gles for ex­am­in­ing its glo­ri­ous past,” Liaon­ing Univer­sity film pro­fes­sor Geng Zhongyin says.

“A for­eign stu­dent may be more as­tute about iden­ti­fy­ing unique el­e­ments of Chi­nese cul­ture and how these fit into daily life.”

Even noo­dles can pro­vide food for thought.

Corine Tiah, a stu­dent from Nanyang Tech­nol­ogy Univer­sity in Sin­ga­pore, trav­eled to Lanzhou, cap­i­tal of Gansu province, to shoot a short doc­u­men­tary on the area’s sig­na­ture beef noo­dles.

“A bowl of noo­dles look sim­ple, but it can rep­re­sent gen­er­a­tions’ per­se­ver­ance in a ca­reer,” she says.

“It also re­veals lo­cal fam­i­lies’ emo­tional con­nec­tions. Be­fore I made the film, I’d never con­sid­ered Chi­nese cul­ture in that way.”

Liu Cong, a pro­ducer with China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion’s English-lan­guage chan­nel, sayssomeof the films should be broad­cast on Chi­nese TV.

Bar­bara Evans, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of film at York Univer­sity in Canada, was­de­lighted to lead ateam that in­cluded stu­dents from seven coun­tries to shoot short doc­u­men­taries in Kaifeng, He­nan province.

“Stu­dents open them­selves up, ex­plore Chi­nese cul­ture and have their per­spec­tives on Chi­nese so­ci­ety broad­ened and trans­formed,” she says.

“It is an ir­re­place­able ex­pe­ri­ence for them and has built a mem­ory for their life­time.”

Huang hopes the pro­gram have a far-reach­ing im­pact.

“The real im­ages that are recorded and based on their first­hand ex­pe­ri­ences don’t merely cre­ate a chan­nel for fur­ther in-depth cul­tural ex­change,” she says.

“When they take these doc­u­men­taries back home, more types of com­mu­ni­ca­tion will fol­low.”

And­per­haps the next gen­er­a­tion’s An­to­nioni will emerge.


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