Canada’s film ‘am­bas­sador’ to China looks to col­lab­o­rate

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS CANADA - By HATTY LIU in Vancouver for China Daily

Cana­dian film­maker Christo­pher Lane isn’t go­ing to let a lit­tle thing like a lan­guage bar­rier stand in the way of col­lab­o­rat­ing with his con­tem­po­raries in China.

De­spite nei­ther know­ing the other’s lan­guage, Lane has been set­ting up fu­ture projects with Chi­nese di­rec­tor Wang Yimin, a 2015 Golden Panda award win­ner, purely through the trans­la­tion func­tion of the Chi­nese mo­bile mes­sag­ing app WeChat.

“It’s a lit­tle crazy, but all of a sud­den we dis­cov­ered this but­ton, and we were chat­ting back and forth, and we’re go­ing to work to­gether,” Lane laughed. “Whether I can come over here to do it, I don’t know, but I want to col­lab­o­rate with Chi­nese artists us­ing these lo­ca­tions [in China], and one thing I’d like to see is co-pro­duc­tions [be­tween] peo­ple from China and Canada.”

Lane also can now add the un­of­fi­cial ti­tle of the Cana­dian film world’s am­bas­sador to China to his al­ready stel­lar re­sume.

That’s be­cause Lane — a di­rec­tor, pro­ducer, film his­to­rian and ed­u­ca­tor at the Toronto Film School (TFS) — is fresh off a seven-day ex­change visit to Bei­jing or­ga­nized by Vancouver’s Golden Panda North Amer­ica In­ter­na­tional Short Film Fes­ti­val.

“When I get home, I will shout from the moun­tain­tops how in­cred­i­ble this has been,” he told China Daily of his trip and in­volve­ment in the fes­ti­val on his sec­ond-to-last night in Bei­jing. “I will make sure all my stu­dents sub­mit their films [to the fes­ti­val] for a chance to go to China next year.”

Lane’s China visit was as part of the Golden Panda In­ter­na­tional Film­mak­ers Cul­tural Im­mer­sion Trip, an an­nual ex­pe­ri­ence of­fered to the win­ners of the pre­vi­ous year’s Golden Panda Fes­ti­val.

Held from March 29 to April 4, the 2016 edi­tion took a young and multi­na­tional del­e­ga­tion of nine film­mak­ers to Bei­jing to ex­plore the an­cient and mod­ern cul­tural achieve­ments of China, as well as to en­gage in a cam­pus visit and con­ver­sa­tion with young Chi­nese film­mak­ers at the Bei­jing Film Academy.

As one of the judges of the third an­nual Golden Panda Fes­ti­val in 2015, Lane was in­vited to travel with the fes­ti­val win­ners to add a vet­eran’s per­spec­tive on the cre­ative and pro­fes­sional in­puts they ex­pe­ri­enced in China.

“Chris has got a good in­dus­try net­work in Toronto, he’s an ed­u­ca­tor, a judge at the Toronto Film School’s film fes­ti­val, and he’s also a film­maker him­self, so we thought he was more than qual­i­fied and could bring a lot of ex­per­tise to judg­ing our fes­ti­val,” said Sandy You, ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of the Cul­tural Im­mer­sion Trip com­mit­tee.

“Later, for the Cul­tural Im­mer­sion Trip, we thought he’d be able to con­nect the young film­mak­ers on the trip, and the film­mak­ers and stu­dents we meet in China, to the re­sources at his school,” You said.

The com­mit­tee’s ex­pec­ta­tions paid off in a big way. In just seven days, Lane got one of his fel­low trav­el­ers to send a pitch pack­age to him for feed­back, ad­vised another on tran­si­tion­ing be­tween doc­u­men­tary to nar­ra­tive film­mak­ing, ini­ti­ated col­lab­o­ra­tion with a Chi­nese film­maker, and started de­vel­op­ing con­tacts and ideas for a plan to cre­ate an ex­change pro­gram be­tween his school and the BFA.

“Chris is su­per sup­port­ive and highly ex­pe­ri­enced in both doc­u­men­taries and nar­ra­tive, and it was help­ful for me as a doc­u­men­tary film­maker to see how he switches be­tween those worlds that can some­times feel dis­parate,” said fel­low trav­eller Dara Kell, a New York-based South African film­maker. “We were talk­ing about me maybe work­ing with him on writ­ing for a doc­u­men­tary.”

“It was re­ally good for us to hear from the other side of the judg­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of our sub­mis­sions,” said Amer­i­can film­maker Gary Lee, another trav­eler. “It was a good ex­change for him and for us.”

Lane said he spent much of the trip “lit­er­ally clown­ing with strangers”. From the Great Wall to the high-speed rail to Bei­jing’s tra­di­tional hu­tong neigh­bour­hoods, he brought an in­fec­tions joie de vivre to the group by, as he also said him­self, “tak­ing in ev­ery­thing I could – sights, sounds and de­li­cious smells waft­ing this way and that way: It’s a sen­sory over­load.”

The ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing a Golden Panda Fes­ti­val judge and vis­it­ing China seems to have started this process by ex­pos­ing him to new knowl­edge about the aes­thet­ics and en­vi­ron­ment of film­mak­ing in China, which he is ea­ger to share with Cana­dian col­leagues.

“I saw a lot of Chi­nese short films in the sub­mis­sions, and I was mes­mer­ized over and over again,” he said. “I was drawn in by the beauty, the pac­ing … like tai chi; they had a beau­ti­ful flow to them, and the lo­ca­tions were just sub­lime.”

“I need to come back be­cause I have so many more ques­tions. I saw the films in China and the Bei­jing Film Academy and was im­pressed. I see how they put to­gether films and the ma­chines and the busi­ness end of it, and now I’d like to learn more about the in­de­pen­dent film­maker.”

For Lane, be­cause the BFA visit and the cre­ative ex­changes be­tween in­ter­na­tional film­mak­ers through­out the trip were the high­lights of his time in China, the task of set­ting up a stu­dent ex­change pro­gram is among the first items on his to-do list af­ter he is back in Canada.

“I’ve talked to some of the peo­ple [at BFA], and I think I’ve ini­ti­ated a di­a­logue, which will hope­fully present great op­por­tu­ni­ties for both sides,” he said.

“I think my stu­dents would ben­e­fit greatly from learn­ing from the academy, and I also be­lieve that their stu­dents would learn a lot from us, and I would love to ac­cept them in our pro­gram.”

He also hopes to con­tinue judg­ing the Golden Panda Fes­ti­val another year, as he be­lieves it “is do­ing a great ser­vice: giv­ing Cana­dian film­mak­ers and film­mak­ers from around the world the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence see­ing other peo­ple tell sto­ries and share their sto­ry­telling sen­si­bil­i­ties”.

“As dif­fer­ent as we can be, our sto­ries are very sim­i­lar,” he said.

“I’ve been in the in­dus­try a long time and I work a lot -- well, it’s not work to me; I don’t punch out at the end of the day, and ev­ery­thing to me is cin­e­matic,” he laughed.

“But I think we all have a feel­ing of re­ju­ve­na­tion from this trip, and I’m be­yond in­spired to do more things af­ter meet­ing all these peo­ple and see­ing where I can as­sist them.

“If we could mesh Western sto­ry­telling and Chi­nese sto­ry­telling to­gether, it’d be beau­ti­ful,” he said.


Cana­dian film­maker Christo­pher Lane be­ing in­ter­viewed dur­ing a re­cent visit to China.


Lane (cen­ter) checks out ex­hibits at a graph­ics art show in Tian­jin An­cient Cul­ture Street.

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