Best of na­ture

New ‘green’ festival screens top en­vi­ron­men­tal films

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By XU FAN xu­fan@chi­

When Huang Zizhen saw a Global For­est Watch screen­shot fea­tur­ing the planet’s for­est cover, she felt sad that China’s tree den­sity ap­peared to be less than some of its neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.

So, aim­ing to raise pub­lic aware­ness about na­ture, Huang, a for­mer multi­na­tional ex­ec­u­tive, switched to cin­ema.

Af­ter pre­par­ing for more than a year with a bud­get of al­most 2 mil­lion yuan ($285,700), she re­cently in­tro­duced Earth­land-Wild­screen Film Festival, a Chi­nese ver­sion of Bri­tain’s Wild­screen Festival, to movie­go­ers in Beijing and Shang­hai.

The Bri­tish festival, which was launched in Bris­tol in 1982, is a bi­en­nial event to cel­e­brate the best sto­ry­tellers on na­ture. The Panda Awards, its high­est hon­ors, are dubbed the “green Os­cars”.

Up to 15 Panda win­ners or nom­i­nated doc­u­men­taries and films were screened in Beijing in Oc­to­ber and in Shang­hai in Novem­ber — the most sig­nif­i­cant part of the Chi­nese event.

From Hid­den King­doms: Un­der Open Skies Leop­ards: 21st Cen­tury Cats to Flight of the But­ter­flies, most of the doc­u­men­taries haven’t been screened in Chi­nese the­aters.

Af­ter ev­ery screen­ing at the festival, ex­perts from, a pop­u­lar Chi­nese so­cial me­dia site on science, held con­ver­sa­tions with au­di­ence mem­bers on the film.

“I got the in­spi­ra­tion at a shop­ping mall in Tai­wan,” Huang says of her en­counter with a DVD seller who spoke at length about doc­u­men­taries on na­ture and pre­his­toric crea­tures.

She also dis­cov­ered that a potential viewer’s in­ter­est in such films is raised with de­tailed ex­pla­na­tions on the sub­jects, which is why she de­cided to make the Earth­land festival in­ter­ac­tive.

The high­lights of the festival in­cluded a sec­tion that was de­signed to en­gage the au­di­ence with the natural world.

Up to 13 lead­ing con­ser­va­tion­ists shared their in­sights, in­clud­ing Wu Lixin, an un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­pher, and Huang Yifeng, an eco-de­signer and win­ner of the Golden Tri­pod Award, the high­est honor in Tai­wan’s pub­li­ca­tion in­dus­try.

A num­ber of celebri­ties, in­clud­ing Hong Kong-based singer Karen Mok, di­rec­tor Tsui Hark and Taipei-based mu­si­cian Jonathan Lee, pro­moted the event by air­ing their thoughts on con­ser­va­tion. So far, the posts about the event have re­ceived 2 mil­lion views on Sina Weibo, the Chi­nese equiv­a­lent of Twit­ter.

The Beauty of Na­ture, the festival’s theme song com­posed by mu­si­cian Zhang Yadong, earned around 1.1 bil­lion views on Weibo.

Huang says she faced chal­lenges, such as a limited bud­get and the long process of re­ceiv­ing govern­ment ap­proval. But her love of na­ture helped her to stay on course.

Earth­land, a com­pany founded by her to man­age the film festival, also hopes to col­lect pho­tos and video footage of China’s ge­o­graph­i­cal fea­tures and en­dan­gered species for on­line dis­play later.


Earth­land-Wild­screen Film Festival screens 15 Panda Award-win­ning or nom­i­nated doc­u­men­taries and na­ture films, such as

He­brides—Is­land­son­theEdge (top) and RiverMon­sters—De­mon Fish (above).

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