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All About the Chinese Films Featured at Busan Film Festival (Part III)

Gabi Verberg

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From Chinese dissident filmmakers to government-funded films, you can find it all at Busan, Asia’s biggest film festival. What’s on Weibo provides an overview of all the Chinese nominees at the festival. This week, the final 7 in our Part III (See Part I here, part II here).

On the 4th of October, the 23th Busan International Film Festival in South Korea finally kicked off. With the screening of 323 films from 79 countries, and 140 world and international premieres, it is one of Asia’s biggest and most exciting international film festivals, with China as one of the main suppliers of films.

This week, we will introduce to you to the final batch of the Chinese nominees, including mostly arthouse films in the category Wide Angle (many of them being short films), but also the big comeback of one of China’s greatest directors, Zhang Yimou.

 

1. My China (Wǒ de Jìngtóu 我的镜头)

China Mainland/Hong Kong
Genre: Documentary (90 min)
Selected in the category: Wide Angle
Director: Wang Xiaoshuai (王小帅)
Premiere: 6th October 2018, Busan International Film Festival

About the Director:

Wang Xiaoshuai (王小帅) is a renowned Chinese director who was born in Shanghai in 1966. He directed his first film The Days (冬春的日子) in 1993, after which it immediately entered film festivals in Canada, Berlin, The Netherlands, Italy, London and many more. Since then, Wang has made around one film every two years.

Scene from ‘The Days’ (冬春的日).

Wang especially gained international recognition since the 2001 film Beijing Bicycle (十七岁的单车), which became the winner of the Silver Bear Jury Grand Prix at the Berlin Film Festival and wowed critics with its story of a youth’s search for his stolen bicycle, particularly with its shades of Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 Bicycle Thieves. In 2005, Wang’s film Shanghai Dreams (青红) won the Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival. Other famous works of Wang include Chongqing Blues (日照重庆) and Red Amnesia (闯入者) which were both nominated for best film at the Venice Film Festival.

Storyline:

My China, also known as Chinese Portrait, is a documentary portraying Chinese people and the places they live in during a period of upheaval. While traveling all over China, the documentary captures people from all walks of life, including miners, fishermen, farmers, students, or construction workers, with Wang Xiaoshuai himself being the main character and guide throughout the film.

See the trailer with Chinese subtitles here.

Why you should watch it:

Although Wang is one of the most famous Chinese directors outside the PRC, his works are often not welcomed within China. With his often-critical lens, he tries to lay bare contemporary China and her societal problems, leading to many of his works being banned in China.

Chinese Portrait might be Wang’s most personal work yet, as he questions his own identity in it by following the path of his family members; he tries to get to know his own country and get an understanding of how the country influenced him as a person. The film is a very intimate portrait of the director and an honest and a beautiful visualization of China’s tumultuous modern history.

 

2. On The Border (Yánbiān Shàonián 延边少年)

China Mainland
Genre: Drama/Short Film
Selected in the category: Wide Angle
Director: Wei Shujun (魏书钧)
Weibo Hashtag: #延边少年# (164.000+ views)
Premiere: 18th May 2018, Cannes International Film Festival

Starring: Li Zhengming, Cui Yuan, Fei Peng, Gang Yanming, Yang Gao and Zhao Lihua.

About the Director:

Wei Shujun (魏书钧) was born in 1991 in Beijing. At the age of 14, he first entered the film industry as an actor. In the years that followed, he worked in various junior positions, such as runner, assistant director, and sound recorder, before he directed his first documentary Said in the Forbidden City (说在紫禁城). In 2016, Wei had an international breakthrough with his first feature film Duck Neck (浮世千) which got him a nomination at the Busan Film Festival as the youngest nominated director that year.

Storyline:

This 15-minute film revolves around Hua Mingxing, a boy from a Korean ethnic group who lives in a Korean-Chinese border village. His father left him a long time ago to earn money in the city. As the boy is passing his time in the village that is mostly populated by elderly people, he decides to go and find his father in the city to ask him to finance his travel plans to Korea. But instead of finding his dad, Hua ends up roaming the streets of Yanbian, striking up a friendship with a young woman.

See here the trailer with English subtitles.

Why you should watch it:

On the Border was awarded with a Special Jury Distinction-Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival of 2018.

 

3. Void (Mèn 闷)

China Mainland
Genre: Drama/Short film
Selected in the category: Wide Angle
Director: Xu Jianshang (徐鉴赏)
Premiere: 19th June 2018, China Mainland

Starring: Chen Xuanyu (陈宣宇)

About the Director:

Majoring in film directing at Beijing Film Academy, Xu Jianshang received recognition for her short Lost in the City (城市), which won Best Screenplay at the Xiejin Academy Film Festival and got nominated for the French Poitiers Film Festival. She graduated from the Asian Film Academy in 2014 and directed the feature film Ma•amaa, a co-production between India and China. She is currently studying film production at Busan Asian Film School.

Storyline:

Pai is a Beijing-based student who is alone and struggling with her studies, her friends, and her living situation. When Pai tries to make things better, the this 19-minute short film shows how her situation further spirals out of control.

Noteworthy:

Despite the fact that Xu is still young, she already received much recognition for her work. Xu is the only female listed among all the directors in our three part overview of Chinese nominees at Busan.

 

4. In the Middle of Blue (Yīzhǐ lánsè de xiā 一只蓝色的虾)

China Mainland
Genre: Drama/Short film
Selected in the category: Wide Angle
Director: Qi Ji or Miracle(祁骥)
Weibo Hashtag: #一只蓝色的虾# (315 views)
Premiere: 21th June 2018, Beijing Film Academy Graduation Show

Starring: Kong Yan (孔雁), Zhang Benyu (张本煜) and Zhang Lu (张鹭).

About the Director:

Qi Ji is a 22-year-old director that graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in July of this year. In 2016, after studying film for only one and a half year, he directed Belief (念) a short film portraying the Muslim minority in China. The film unexpectedly entered the International Youth Micro Film Exposition (国际青少年微电影) and ended in the top ten Best Chinese Films. For Qi’s second work, In the Middle of Blue, he won the jury award at the +86358 Short Film Festival.

See here his speech ‘Can an artist be made?’ on TEDx in English.

Storyline:

This 26-minute film features a female protagonist called Ye Hong, who is left by her husband after not being able to have children. Her life then takes a dramatic change, that unexpectedly leaves her having twins and only raising one of them.

Why you should watch it:

Qi is an extremely young and promising director that is worth keeping your eye on. This does not only show in his nomination for the Busan Film Festival, but is also evident from the cast he rounded up for this production.

 

5. Down There (Nàlǐ 那里)

China Mainland/France
Genre: Drama/Short film
Selected in the category: Wide Angle
Director: Yang Zhengfan (杨正帆)
Premiere: 6th of September 2018, Venice Film Festival

Starring: An Qigu, Wang Songhua and Chen Shaokai

About the Director:

Yang Zhengfan started his career in filmmaking in 2009, and in 2012 he set up production company ‘Burn the Film‘ with producer Zhu Shengze (朱声仄). In 2013, his work Distant (远方) received international attention and was nominated at the Locarno and Vancouver Film Festival. In 2016, he was invited at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, receiving the Jury Award at China Independent Film Festival and the Best Experimental Film Award at South Taiwan Film Festival with his work Where Are You Going (你往何处去).

In collaboration with Zhu, Yang also worked as a cinematographer and producer for two documentaries titled Out of Focus (虚焦) and Another Year (又一年). Both received much international attention.

Storyline:

A blissful night is unexpectedly interrupted by the sound of a woman desperately screaming downstairs. Residents of the apartment building do wonder about the sound, but it quickly loses their interest, and continue the thing that they were doing before. If nobody sees what happened, does that mean it becomes something that never happened? This 11-minute sgort film explores indifference and cruelty in the modern-day city.

See here the trailer with English subtitles.

Why you should watch it:

Down There received nominations for both the Venice International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival. Another reason why you should watch it, is that Yang has proved to be an expert in portraying individuality, loneliness, and exclusion of people in big cities. Whether he is portraying migrant worker families or middle age taxi drivers, Yang has a gift for showing the immensely intimidating effect the big city environment has on people.

 

6. Monkey Magic (Dànào Xīyóu 大闹西游)

China Mainland
Genre: Animation
Selected in the category: Wide Angle
Director: Ma Xihai (马系海)
Weibo Hashtag: #大闹西游# (3.498.000+ views)
Premiere: 22nd of September 2018, China

Starring: Sun Ye (孙晔), Shen Dawei (沈达威), Tao Dian (陶典) and Liu Beichen (刘北辰).

About the Director:

Ma Xihai began his career in the animation industry in the early 1990s. He started as a crew member, made it to senior graphic designer, production supervisor, and eventually executive director. Besides Monkey Magig, he has worked on many adaptions like Master Q: Incredible Pet Detective (老夫子之反斗侦探), Master Q: Fantasy Zone Battle (老夫子之魔界梦战记), and Storm Rider. His computer animations even brought him to South Korea where he produced a TV series, and to Japan where he worked on game animations. In 2013 he co-directed his first animation film The Soccer Way (圣龙奇兵大冒险). Monkey Magic will be the first film directed entirely by Ma.

Storyline:

Monkey Magic is a modern reinterpretation of the timeless Chinese classic Journey to the West. The story starts when toys refuse to admit that monkey Sun Wuyuan is the king of monkeys because he doesn’t have Sun Wukong’s magic stick. Full of determination, Sun Wuyuan goes to find the legendary king Sun Wukong on Mount Huaguo to give him the magic stick – the beginning of a tumultuous adventure.

See here the trailer with Chinese subtitles.

Why you should watch it:

The film has already seen a very good reception within China since it premiered, selling over 36 million tickets. It was the most popular film in theaters during the mid-autumn festival, and it already is the most successful animation film of 2018.

 

7. Shadow (Yǐng 影)

China Mainland
Genre: Drama/Action/Historic
Selected in the category: A View on Asian Cinema
Director: Zhang Yimou (张艺谋)
Weibo Hashtag: #影# (88.674.000+ views)
Premiere: 6th of September 2018, Venice Film Festival

Starring: Chao Deng (邓超), Sun Li (孙俪), Zheng Kai (郑恺), Wang Qianyuan (王千源), Wang Jingchun (王景春), Hu Jun (胡军), Guan Xiaotong (关晓彤) and Wu Leo (吴磊).

About the Director:

The renowned Zhang Yimou is an awarded cinematographer and director from Xi’an. He is often praised for his knowledge of Chinese history and his capacity to respectfully and truthfully transform these old stories into white screen productions. He is one of the few Chinese directors that is a regular at both Asian and western film festivals. In 2003, his film Hero (英雄) was nominated for an Oscar for the best foreign film. Other famous works include Red Sorghum 红高粱), Not One Less (一个都不能少), The Flowers of War (金陵十三钗), and his previous film starring Matt Damon, The Great Wall (长城).

In 2008, Zhang directed the opening- and closing ceremony of the Olympics held in Beijing, China. This gained him a very high reputation in both China and abroad. That same year, he was nominated for “person of the year” by the American Time Magazine.

Storyline:

Shadow is based on Zhu Sujin’s rendition of China’s legendary Three Kingdoms saga. It tells the story of Yu, a commander who lost his kingdom. In an attempt to regain his power and kingdom, he trains a boy named Jing to become his ‘shadow’ or double (note: Yu and Jing are both played by Chao Deng). But things go differently than he planned, with Jing falling in love with Yu’s wife and growing up to doubt his own identity and the path that was chosen for him.

See here the trailer with English subtitles.

Why you should watch it:

Variety was positive about the film and was talking of a comeback after Zhang’s somewhat soulless previous two films. The review read: “Every supremely controlled stylistic element of Zhang Yimou’s breathtakingly beautiful ‘Shadow’ is an echo of another, a motif repeated, a pattern recurring in a fractionally different way each time.”

Others describe the film as “rousing” and “typically beautiful.”

To see the other Chinese films at Busan, check Part I and Part II here.

By Gabi Verberg

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Gabi Verberg is a Business graduate from the University of Amsterdam who has worked and studied in Shanghai and Beijing. She now lives in Amsterdam and works as a part-time translator, with a particular interest in Chinese modern culture and politics.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Famous Chinese Nursery Song “One Penny” Inflates to “One Yuan”

One penny becomes one yuan in this children’s song. What’s next – changing it to QR codes?

Manya Koetse

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Famous Chinese children’s song “One Penny” (一分钱) has changed its penny to a Chinese yuan ($0.15).

The lyrics to the song are now published online and in children’s books with the different lyrics, Chinese news platform City Bulletin (@都市快报) reports on Weibo.

The altered text in a children’s book.

The classic song, in translation, says:

I found a penny on the street,
And handed it over to Uncle Policeman.
The Uncle Policeman took the penny,
And nodded his head at me.
I happily said: “Uncle, goodbye!

The song, by Chinese composer Pan Zhensheng (潘振声), is known throughout China. It came out in 1963.

Apparently, in present-day China, nobody would go through so much hassle for a penny anymore, and so the text was altered (although it is very doubtful people would go through the trouble for one yuan either).

The penny coin (0.01) in renminbi was first issued in 1957, and is somewhat rare to come across these days. “It’s probably even worth more than one yuan now,” some netizens argue.

Chinese media report that composer Pan Zhensheng said the song is just an innocent children’s song, and that it should not be affected by price inflation. Sina News also quoted the composer in saying that changing the text is “not respectful.”

Although some Chinese netizens think the change in the song is just normal modern development, others do not agree at all. In Hangzhou, some say, all you can find on the streets nowadays is QR codes rather than coins. Surely the song should not incorporate those new developments either?

Some commenters on Weibo say the song would never be realistic in China’s current cashless society anyway: “Kids nowadays are not finding cash money at all anymore!”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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Chinese TV Dramas

Controversy over Scene in Anti-Japanese War Drama Featuring Black U.S. Soldier and Chinese Nurse

Some scenes from this anti-Japanese war drama have angered Chinese netizens over ‘historical nihilism.’

Manya Koetse

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A black soldier comes to China from afar during WWII and falls in love with a Chinese villager who sacrifices her life for him. This war drama is sensationalizing the Sino-Japanese War in the wrong way, many netizens say.

“I love you, I love China,” a black man tells a Chinese woman in a clip of an anti-Japanese war drama that has gone viral on Chinese social media over the past few days (watch clip in embedded tweet below).

The scene is set on a mountain, where the man and woman hold hands when she tells him to flee from the “Japanese devils.” She repeats: “Remember: love me, love China.”

The love scene takes a dramatic turn when the two get ambushed by the Japanese army. The Chinese woman immediately pushes the man off the mountain to bring him to safety. While she cries out “love me, love China” she is attacked by Japanese soldiers and dies.

The scene comes from a 2016 TV drama titled The Great Rescue of The Flying Tigers (飞虎队大营救). The drama tells the story of Japanese soldiers chasing surviving members of a Flying Tigers aircraft after they shot it down. Various soldiers and army staff on the Chinese side try to rescue the fighters from the hands of the Japanese.

The drama’s portrayal of a romance between the foreign soldier and a Chinese woman, on the side of the Communist Eighth Route Army, has stirred controversy on Weibo this week.

“The director is retarded, this is historical nihilism,” one Weibo blogger writes.

Hundreds of netizens also criticize the drama’s director and screenwriters: “This is not even funny, what kind of scriptwriter comes up with this trash? This should be thoroughly investigated.”

The Flying Tigers (飞虎队) were a group of US fighter pilots who went to China during the final three years of the Second Sino-Japanese War to fight the Japanese invaders and defend China.

Flying Tigers.

The people behind the Flying Tigers belonged to the organization of the American Volunteer Group (AVG), who came together in 1941 to strengthen the Chinese Air Force.

In the now controversial TV drama The Great Rescue of The Flying Tigers, the black soldier is ‘Carl’ (Cedric Beugre), a surviving member of the Flying Tigers aircraft shut down by Japanese forces. The Chinese woman is ‘Xinghua,’ a female nurse who sacrifices her own life to save Carl.

The dialogues between Carl and Xinghua are pretty simple and at times almost ridiculous. While Xinghua does not speak a word of English and appears clueless, Carl is depicted as a stubborn, crude and somewhat silly character, who also seems to understand very little of what is happening around him and does all he can to be with his Xinghua after a brief meeting in the Chinese base camp (also see this scene or here).

On Chinese social media, the drama is critiqued for being a so-called ‘divine Anti-Japanese drama’ (抗日神剧): Chinese war dramas that sensationalize the history of the war by making up unrealistic and overly dramatic or funny scenes and storylines.

In 2015, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) announced a limit on these kinds of TV dramas that sensationalize the history of war, and in doing so ‘misrepresent history’ and ‘disrespect’ the Chinese soldiers who fought to defend the nation (read more).

TV series focusing on war are part of China’s every day (prime time) TV schedules. These Chinese war dramas are called “Anti-Japanese War Dramas” (抗日电视剧), literally referring to the period of ‘resisting Japan’ during WWII (in China, the 1937-1945 war is called The War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression 中国抗日战争).

The 40-episode series The Great Rescue of the Flying Tigers was aired by Yunnan City Channel but is also available online. Since there are countless reruns of Anti-Japanese war dramas on Chinese tv, it is possible that some viewers only now viewed the 2016 drama for the first time.

Some netizens call this a “new kind of fantasy war drama”, summarizing: “A black man comes from far away to China to fight Japan, falls in love with a Chinese nurse who sacrifices her own life for him and yells ‘Love me love China’ before she dies.”

Many on social media call the script “idiotic,” others question if black soldiers ever joined the Flying Tigers in the first place.

There seems to be more to the controversy than sensationalizing history alone though – relationships between foreign men and Chinese women, especially black men and Chinese women, are often met with prejudice and racism on Chinese social media. Mixing such a narrative in a drama about the Second Sino-Japanese war makes it all the more controversial.

Some see the narrative of the love between a foreign soldier and a Chinese woman as a way of ‘beautifying’ the war and ‘adoring everything that’s foreign.’

“This is not respecting history at all!”, one among hundreds of commenters says.

In the TV drama, the sentence “Love me, Love China” does have some extra meaning in the end. Although Xinghua sacrifices her life for Carl in episode 19, he eventually chooses to fight side by side against the Japanese ‘devils’ with the Chinese army, keeping his promise to “love China” like he loved Xinghua.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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