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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 Media

Surprise Attack: CCTV6 Unexpectedly Airs Anti-American Movies as China-US Trade War Intensifies

“They have no new anti-American films, so they’re showing us the old ones instead.”

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CCTV 6, the movie channel of China’s main state television broadcaster, has gone trending on Chinese social media today for changing its schedule and playing three anti-American movies for three days in a row.

Some suggest the selection for the movies is no coincidence, and that it’s sending out a clear anti-US message while the trade war is heating up.

The three movies are the Korean war movies Heroic Sons and Daughters (英雄儿女, 1964), Battle on Shangganling Mountain (上甘岭, 1954), and Surprise Attack (奇袭, 1960), airing from May 17-19 during prime time at 20:15.

Ongoing trade tensions between China and the United States heightened when Trump raised an existing 10 percent tax on many Chinese imports to 25 percent earlier this month. Chinese authorities responded by raising taxes on many American imports.

Over the past week, anti-American propaganda has intensified in Chinese state media, with the slogan “Wanna talk? Let’s talk. Wanna fight? Let’s do it. Wanna bully us? Dream on!“* (“谈,可以!打,奉陪!欺,妄想!”) going viral on Chinese social media.

The movies broadcasted by CCTV these days are so-called “Resist America, Help North Korea” movies (“抗美援朝影片”).

The ‘Resist the USA, Help North Korea’ (or: “Resist American Aggression and Aid North Korea”) was a propaganda slogan launched in October 1950 during the Korean War (1950-1953). China came to the assistance of North Korea after the war with the South had broken out in June that year and the UN forces intervened in September.

The government, led by Mao Zedong, sent troops to fight in the war. Mao’s own son, Mao Anying, was killed in action by an air strike a month after the start of this 3-year war against US aggression in support of North Korea. The war ended with the armistice of July 1953.

“That’s not a target, it’s the enemy: American Imperialism.” Political poster from 1950 (http://military.china.com/).

“Resist USA, Aid North Korea” propaganda poster抗美援朝.

All three movies aired on CCTV6 are set during the “War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea.”

Battle on Shangganling Mountain focuses on a group of Chinese People’s Volunteer Army soldiers who are holding Triangle Hill for several days against US forces.

Heroic Sons and Daughters tells the story of a political commissar in China’s volunteer army who finds his missing daughter on the Korean battlefield.

Surprise Attack revolves around the mission of the Chinese army to blow up the strategic Kangping Bridge, cutting off supplies to the American army and allowing the Chinese to engage in a full attack.

On Chinese social media, the unexpected decision of the CCTV to change its original schedule and to air the three historical films has become a much-discussed topic, with many people praising CCTV6 for showing these movies.

The issue was also widely reported on by Chinese media, from Sohu News to Global Times, which called the broadcast programming itself a “Surprise Attack.”

Not all netizens praise the initiative, however, with some commenting: “It seems that there are no new anti-American TV series or movies now, so they’ve come up with these old films to brainwash us.” Others said: “This kind of brainwashing is not useful.”

Many Weibo users, however, just enjoy seeing classic movies, saying “They don’t make movies like this anymore,” and “It’s good for the younger generation to also see these classics.”

If you’re reading this article on Saturday night China Central Time, you’re still in time to watch the airing of Battle on Shangganling Mountain on CCTV6 here.

Update 18th May CST: It seems that a fourth movie has been added to the series now. This might just become the CCTV6 Anti-American movies month! We’ll keep you updated.

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

*Translation suggested by @kaiserkuo.

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

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

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China Arts & Entertainment

The Lawyers Are Here: Chinese State Media Popularize ‘Rule of Law’

The Chinese TV show ‘The Lawyers are Here’ is “helping the people through the rule of law.”

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The Lawyers are Here (律师来了) is a weekly television program by state broadcaster CCTV that focuses on the legal struggles of ordinary Chinese citizens. The program educates through entertainment, and in doing so, propagates core socialist values such as equality, justice, and rule of law.

You just bought a new house when you discover its locks have been changed and you’re denied access. Together with five colleagues, you’ve been working in a factory when your boss suddenly lays you off without explanation. You won a lawsuit but still have not received the settled compensation. What to do? What kind of rights do you have as a Chinese citizen?

These kinds of legal cases are at the center of a weekly Chinese TV show called The Lawyers Are Here (律师来了), which was first aired on CCTV’s Legal Channel in 2017 as a follow-up to the 2016 I am a Barrister (我是大律师).

The Lawyers Are Here introduces a different legal issue every week. The problems range from the aforementioned examples to people wanting custody over their child or a former patient fighting a negligent hospital for financial compensation.

Besides the TV host (Cao Xuanyi 曹煊一) and the people involved in the case, every 45-minute episode features various topic experts and four lawyers who offer their views and advice on the matter.

Each show begins with a short video explaining the story behind the case, after which the participants analyze the different legal aspects. One person provides further clarification at certain moments throughout the show by reading from Chinese legal texts.

Once everybody has a clear picture of the current situation, the show enters its most thrilling stage. Background music heightens the tension as the lawyers have to answer the most crucial question of the night: are they willing to take this case? It is then up to the party involved in the case to choose the lawyer they trust the most to win their case.

The Lawyers Are Here describes itself as “China’s first legal media public service platform.” It does not only offer help to the common people on the show who are caught up in legal issues, but it also informs viewers on how to handle certain problems, and educates people on China’s legal system.

One 2018 episode featured a female nurse from Beijing who was seeking help in getting divorced from her abusive husband. The woman only wanted a divorce if she could get full custody over her 15-month-old son. The lawyers on the show explained that if the woman could prove she suffered from abuse at the hands of her husband, she had a stronger case in getting full custody.

The woman, visibly upset, tells that she has never reported the abuse to the police, but that she did go to the hospital and took photos of her injuries. Although the lawyers on the show predicted that the pictures and hospital records would be sufficient evidence for the court, they also strongly advised all viewers to always report these incidents to the police.

Legal advice on the show goes beyond family-related issues. In another episode, a victim of a fraudulent car dealer was reprimanded by the lawyers for signing a contract before thoroughly reading it. “Never sign a contract before reading it completely”, the show warned, also telling viewers never to be pressured into signing a contract.

The Lawyers Are Here also often shows how the people featured on the show receive help from their lawyer after filming, and how a dispute is finally settled in court.

 

Popularizing Rule of Law

 

Every episode of The Lawyers Are Here starts with the slogan “The law is the rule, help is the intention” or “Helping the people through the rule of law” (“法为绳墨, 助为初心”).

By clearly reinforcing the message of ‘live by the law and justice will prevail,’ The Lawyers Are Here serves as a media tool to propagate the idea of ‘Governing China with Rule of Law,’ which is emphasized by the Party leadership.

“Rule of law” is one of the 14 principles of ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ and one of the 12 Core Socialist Values. This idea is clearly promoted throughout the show, along with other socialist values such as equality, justice, and integrity.

Image via 博谈网.

An important aspect of promoting the idea of a nation that is ruled by law is educating people on Chinese law, and, perhaps more importantly, creating more trust in legal institutions among the people.

Besides news media and other forms of propaganda, TV shows such as The Lawyers Are Here are effective tools for doing so. Not only does it present legal cases in a popular and modern way, even adding a game factor to it, it also personalizes it by letting the people tell their emotional stories – sometimes even moving the TV host to tears – and showing that the law can resolve complex family or business problems in an efficient matter.

On social media, people compliment the CCTV show for “bringing justice to ordinary people” and “standing up for the weak.”

“I hope we can have more programs such as these,” one Weibo commenter writes.

The Lawyers are Here is broadcasted every Saturday on 18:00 at CCTV12.

By Gabi Verberg, Manya Koetse

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

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

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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