Best of nature
New ‘green’ festival screens top environmental films
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 guokr.com, 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).