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An Overview of Chinese Nominations at Busan Film Festival (Part I)  

These are the Chinese films that have been nominated for the Busan Film Festival.

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. In the weeks leading up to the event, What’s on Weibo’s Gabi Verberg provides an overview of the Chinese nominees. This week: part I.

On the 4th of October, the 23th Busan International Film Festival in South Korea will roll out its red carpet to open this year’s film festival season in Asia. With the screening of 323 films from 79 countries, it is one of Asia’s biggest international film festivals, with China as one of the main suppliers of films.

Popular sections of the festival include:

– ‘A Window on Asian Cinema’, which showcases new and representative films by Asian filmmakers;
– ‘New Current’, which features the first or the second work by future directors of Asian cinema; and
– ‘Wide Angle‘, an assembly of documentaries, short films, Cinekid, and showcases.
It is these three sections in which most Chinese directors received their nominations.

In the upcoming weeks, we will provide you with more in-depth information on the Chinese films nominated for the festival. Please note that most of these films have not been officially released yet, so it might take some time before the (subtitled) films are available for all audiences.

This week, we will introduce to you to the first five of the Chinese nominees.

 

1. Savages (Xuěbào 雪暴)

China Mainland
Genre: Drama, Action, Crime, Suspense
Selected in the category: New Currents
Director: Siwei Cui (崔斯韦)
Weibo hashtag: #雪暴# (240.000+ views)
Premiere: October 2018, Busan International Film Festival

Starring: Chen Chang (张震), Nini (倪妮), Fan Liao (廖凡), Jue Huang (黄觉), Hua Liu (刘桦), Guangjie Li (李光洁), Taili Wang (王太利), Xiaojun Yue (岳小军), Yicong Zhang (张弈聪)

About the Director:

Siwei Cui is best known for his successes as a screenwriter. In 2009, he got nominated for best screenplay at the Chinese Film Media Awards, and for best script at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival for his work Crazy Racer (疯狂的赛车). Other works he wrote include The Island ( 一出好戏), which is selected in the A Window on Asian Cinema section at this year’s Busan Film Festival, and No Man’s Land (无人区). Siwei Cui once before directed a film in 2013 in cooperation with Zusong Lü (吕祖松) named Piano Trojan (钢琴木马). Savages will be his second work as a director.

Storyline:

Set against the backdrop of a desolate mountain village in the midst of a snow storm, a confrontation between the police and a criminal gang goes down.

Why you should watch it:

It is interesting to see how a relatively unexperienced director assembled so many well-known actors, including Nini (20 million followers on Weibo), Guangjie Li (5.51 million followers on Weibo), Jue Huang (3.73 million followers on Weibo) and Chen Chang (1.69 million followers on Weibo).

 

2. Vanishing Days (Mànyóu 漫游)

China Mainland
Genre: Drama
Selected in the category: New Currents
Director: Xin Zhu (祝新)
Premiere: October 2018, Busan International Film Festival

Main Characters: Yan Jiang (姜郦), Jing Huang (黄菁), Yan Chen (陈燕), Xiaoxing Li (李小杏), Haiqing Luo (骆海清), Jiehe Lu (卢嘉禾), Jiajun Zhao (赵家俊)

About the Director:

The young director Xin Zhu was born in 1996 and recently graduated from the Film and Television Department of the China Academy of Art. His first short film Community (午山社区) was nominated for an Exploration Award at the Amphibia Youth Film Festival (双栖青年影展). Other works of Xin Zhu are the short films A Folk Song (山野之歌) and Homesick (嘉年华). Vanishing Days is Xin Zhu’s first feature film.

Storyline:

The film is set in a crazy hot summer in 2009. Li Senlin struggles with her essay project, when Aunt Qiuqiu suddenly pays a visit. Reality and memory entangle as her aunt recalls a strange homicide case on a deserted island, while everyone else seems more concerned about the heat.

Why you should watch it:

Xin Zhu is amongst the youngest directors at the Busan Film Festival, and instead of professionals, Xin casted amateur actors for this film. The blog Deep Focus also mentions director Xin Zhu when they talk about the start of ‘a new wave’ of Chinese directors – those born after 1995. Xin Zhu uses an unclear tone to, presumably, let the viewers again experience the feeling of novelty, surprise, and doubt we had when we were younger. The film is full of mismatched stories, dreams and fantasy.

 

3. A Family Tour (Zìyóu xíng 自由行)

Taiwan/China Mainland/Hong Kong/Singapore/Malaysia
Genre: Drama
Selected in the category: A Window on Asian Cinema
Director: Liang Ying (应亮)
Premiere: 1st August 2018 on Locarno International Film Festival

Main Characters: Zhe Gong (宫哲), An Nai (耐安)

About the Director:

It’s not the first time Liang Ying attends an international film festival. In 2012, he was nominated for a Golden Leopard Award and won an award for best direction at the Locarno International Film Festival for his film When Night Falls (我还有话要说). It is this award-winning film that caused Liang Ying to flee the country after the government allgedly intimidated him and his family members to sell the government the rights of the film. Liang Ying refused, and then continued to live in exile in Hong Kong. A few years later, he won an award at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival for his work A Sunny Day (九月二十八日·晴) in the category Best Short Feature Film. Liang Ying’s other famous works include The Other Half (另一半), and Taking Father Home (背鸭子的男孩) – which both received nominations from film festivals worldwide.

Storyline:

The film revolves around Yang Shu, a Chinese director, who has been exiled from Hong Kong for making a film that offended the government. After 5 years, she desperately wants to reunite with her ailing mother who is visiting Taiwan and let her hold the grandson she misses.

Why you should watch it:

The story is semi-biographical from the director’s experiences since his exile from China in 2012. Variety wrote about the film: “[it is an] intelligently affecting story of exile and displacement,” and said it is “Ying Liang’s most highly polished film to date.” Indiewire called the film “heartbreaking.” The film was nominated for the Golden Leopard Award at the 71st Locarno International Film Festival.

 

4. The Enigma of Arrival (Dǐdá zhī mí 抵达之谜)

Mainland China
Genre: Crime
Selected in the category: A Window on Asian Cinema
Director: Song Wen (宋文)
Reads on Weibo: 35000 (#抵达之谜#)
Premiere: October 2018, Busan International Film Festival

Starring: Xian Li (李现), Borui Dong (董博睿), Xuan Gu (顾璇)

About the Director:

Some might know director Song Wen as the founder of FIRST International Film Festival, a festival for young directors, which celebrated its 12th edition this year. In 2015 Song Wen started his career as a producer and director. The Enigma of Arrival is his first work.

Storyline:

After many years, a group of high school friends reunites. They have not seen each other since the disappearance of Dondong, a girl they all secretly fancied. The circumstances of her disappearance cause the end of their friendship. Although a long time has passed, there are still things unspoken about what exactly happened during those crucial years.

Why you should watch it:

The main character in the film is played by the popular young actor Xian Li (李现), who currently has over 3.8 million followers on Weibo. He is best known for his roles in Chinese TV dramas such as Medical Examiner Dr. Qin. The second reason to watch this film is the contribution of Berlin Film Festival and The Golden Rooster award-winning producer Fei Xie (谢飞). He and Song Wen have been closely cooperating for this work for over three years.

 

5. Jinpa (Zhuàng Sǐle Yī Zhǐ Yáng 撞死了一只羊)

China Mainland
Genre: Drama
Selected in the category: A Window on Asian Cinema
Director: Pema Tseden (万玛才旦)
Weibo Reads: 340.000 (#撞死了一只羊#)
Premiere: 4th September 2018, Venice International Film Festival

Leading Actors: Jinpa (金巴), Genden Phuntsok (更登彭措), Sonam Wangmo (索朗旺姆)

About the Director:

Pema Tseden is an acknowledged director, screenwriter, producer and writer from Tibet. He started his career as a writer and started publishing stories in 1991. In the years that followed he published more than forty short stories in Tibetan and Chinese. His writing has been acknowledged with many awards. In 2002. he first entered the film industry as editor of the film The Silent Holy Stone (静静的嘛呢石) which received international attention. This is where Pema Tseden’s film career took off. His famous other works include The Search (寻找智美更登) and Tharlo (塔洛) which both received several nominations from in and outside China.

Storyline:

On a dusty highroad in Tibet, a truck-driver gives a young man a ride. As he chats with the hitchhiker, he notices a knife strapped to his leg…

Why you should watch it:

The film is an adaption of the short story Killer (杀手) by Cirenluobo (次仁罗布), and from a short story of the director himself. They are both rewarded writers from Tibet who give a rare glimpse into the lives of the Tibet people. Jinpa was shortlisted for this year’s 75th Venice International Film Festival in the Orizzonti section.

Stayed tuned for more! Meanwhile, also check out our must-see Chinese film list of 2017 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.

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 Memes & Viral

Chengdu Disney: The Quirkiest Hotspot in China

How a senior activity park in Chengdu was ‘Disneyfied’ and became a viral hotspot.

Manya Koetse

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How did a common park turn into a buzzing hotspot? By mixing online trends with real-life fun, blending foreign styles with local charm, and adding a dash of humor and absurdity, Chengdu now boasts its very own ‘Chengdu Disney’. We explain the trend.

By Manya Koetse, co-authored by Ruixin Zhang

Have you heard about Chengdu Disney yet? If not, it’s probably unlike anything you’d imagine. It’s not actually a Disney theme park opening up in Chengdu, but it’s one of the city’s most viral hotspots these days.

What is now known as ‘Chengdu Disney’ all over the Chinese internet is actually a small outdoor park in a residential area in Chengdu’s Yulin area, which also serves as the local senior fitness activity center.

Crowds of young people are coming to this area to take photos and videos, hang out, sing songs, cosplay, and be part of China’s internet culture in an offline setting.

 
Once Upon a Rap Talent Show
 

The roots of ‘Chengdu Disney’ can be traced back to the Chinese hip-hop talent show The Rap of China (中国新说唱), where a performer named Nuomi (诺米), also known as Lodmemo, was eliminated by Chinese rapper Boss Shady (谢帝 Xièdì), one of the judges on the show.

Nuomi felt upset about the elimination and a comment made by his idol mentor, who mistakenly referred to a song Nuomi made for his ‘grandma’ instead of his grandfather. His frustration led to a viral livestream where he expressed his anger towards his participation in The Rap of China and Boss Shady.

However, it wasn’t only his anger that caught attention; it was his exaggerated way of speaking and mannerisms. Nuomi, with his Sichuan accent, repeatedly inserted English phrases like “y’know what I’m saying” and gestured as if throwing punches.

His oversized silver chain, sagging pants, and urban streetwear only reinforce the idea that Nuomi is trying a bit too hard to emulate the fashion style of American rappers from the early 2000s, complete with swagger and street credibility.

Lodmemo emulates the style of American rappers in the early 2000s, and he has made it his brand.

Although people mocked him for his wannabe ‘gangsta’ style, Nuomi embraced the teasing and turned it into an opportunity for fame.

He decided to create a diss track titled Xiè Tiān Xièdì 谢天谢帝, “Thank Heaven, Thank Emperor,” a word joke on Boss Shady’s name, which sounds like “Shady” but literally means ‘Thank the Emperor’ in Chinese. A diss track is a hip hop or rap song intended to mock someone else, usually a fellow musician.

In the song, when Nuomi disses Boss Shady (谢帝 Xièdì), he raps in Sichuan accent: “Xièdì Xièdì wǒ yào diss nǐ [谢帝谢帝我要diss你].” The last two words, namely “diss nǐ” actually means “to diss you” but sounds exactly like the Chinese word for ‘Disney’: Díshìní (迪士尼). This was soon picked up by netizens, who found humor in the similarity; it sounded as if the ‘tough’ rapper Nuomi was singing about wanting to go to Disney.

Nuomi and his diss track, from the music video.

Nuomi filmed the music video for this diss track at a senior activity park in Chengdu’s Yulin subdistrict. The music video went viral in late March, and led to the park being nicknamed the ‘Chengdu Disney.’

The particular exercise machine on which Nuomi performed his rap quickly became an iconic landmark on Douyin, as everyone eagerly sought to visit, sit on the same see-saw-style exercise machine, and repeat the phrase, mimicking the viral video.

What began as a homonym led to people ‘Disneyfying’ the park itself, with crowds of visitors flocking to the park, some dressed in Disney-related costumes.

This further developed the concept of a Chengdu ‘Disney’ destination, turning the park playground into the happiest place in Yulin.

 
Chengdu: China’s Most Relaxed Hip Hop Hotspot
 

Chengdu holds a special place in China’s underground hip-hop scene, thanks to its vibrant music culture and the presence of many renowned Chinese hip-hop artists who incorporate the Sichuan dialect into their songs and raps.

This is one reason why this ‘Disney’ meme happened in Chengdu and not in any other Chinese city. But beyond its musical significance, the playful spirit of the meme also aligns with Chengdu’s reputation for being an incredibly laid-back city.

In recent years, the pursuit of a certain “relaxed feeling” (sōngchígǎn 松弛感) has gained popularity across the Chinese internet. Sōngchígǎn is a combination of the word for “relaxed,” “loose” or “lax” (松弛) and the word for “feeling” (感). Initially used to describe a particular female aesthetic, the term evolved to represent a lifestyle where individuals strive to maintain a relaxed demeanor, especially in the face of stressful situations.

 

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The concept gained traction online in mid-2022 when a Weibo user shared a story of a family remaining composed when their travel plans were unexpectedly disrupted due to passport issues. Their calm and collected response inspired the adoption of the “relaxed feeling” term (also read here).

Central to embodying this sense of relaxation is being unfazed by others’ opinions and avoiding unnecessary stress or haste out of fear of judgment.

Nowadays, Chinese cities aim to foster this sense of sōngchígǎn. Not too long ago, there were many hot topics suggesting that Chengdu is the most sōngchí 松弛, the most relaxed city in China.

This sentiment is reflected in the ‘Chengdu Disney’ trend, which both pokes fun at a certain hip-hop aesthetic deemed overly relaxed—like the guys who showed up with sagging pants—and embraces a carefree, childlike silliness that resonates with the city’s character and its people.

Mocking sagging pants at ‘Chengdu Disney.’

Despite the influx of visitors to the Chengdu Disney area, authorities have not yet significantly intervened. Community notices urging respect for nearby residents and the presence of police officers to maintain order indicate a relatively hands-off approach. For now, it seems most people are simply enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.

 
Being Part of the Meme
 

An important aspect that contributes to the appeal of Chengdu Disney is its nature as an online meme, allowing people to actively participate in it.

Scenes from Chengdu Disney, images via Weibo.

China has a very strong meme culture. Although there are all kinds of memes, from visual to verbal, many Chinese memes incorporate wordplay. In part, this has to do with the nature of Chinese language, as it offers various opportunities for puns, homophones, and linguistic creativity thanks to its tones and characters.

The use of homophones on Chinese social media is as old as Chinese social media itself. One of the most famous examples is the phrase ‘cǎo ní mǎ’ (草泥马), which literally means ‘grass mud horse’, but is pronounced in the same way as the vulgar “f*ck your mother” (which is written with three different characters).

In the case of the Chengdu Disney trend, it combines a verbal meme—stemming from the ‘diss nǐ’ / Díshìní homophone—and a visual meme, where people gather to pose for videos/photos in the same location, repeating the same phrase.

Moreover, the trend bridges the gap between the online and offline worlds, as people come together at the Chengdu playground, forming a tangible community through digital culture.

The fact that this is happening at a residential exercise park for the elderly adds to the humor: it’s a Chengdu take on what “urban” truly means. These colorful exercise machines are a common sight in Chinese parks nationwide and are actually very mundane. Transforming something so normal into something extraordinary is part of the meme.

A 3D-printed model version of the exercise equipment featured in Nuomi’s music video.

Lastly, the incorporation of the Disney element adds a touch of whimsy to the trend. By introducing characters like Snow White and Mickey Mouse, the trend blends American influences (hip-hop, Disney) with local Chengdu culture, creating a captivating and absurd backdrop for a viral phenomenon.

For some people, the pace in which these trends develop is just too quick. On Weibo, one popular tourism blogger (@吴必虎) wrote: “The viral hotspots are truly unpredictable these days. We’re still seeing buzz around the spicy hot pot in Gansu’s Tianshui, meanwhile, a small seesaw originally meant for the elderly in a residential community suddenly turns into “Chengdu Disneyland,” catching the cultural and tourism authorities of Sichuan and even Shanghai Disneyland off guard. Netizens are truly powerful, even making it difficult for me, as a professional cultural tourism researcher, to keep up with them.”

By Manya Koetse, co-authored by Ruixin Zhang

Independently reporting China trends for over a decade. Like what we do? Support us and get the story behind the hashtag by subscribing:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Music

The Chinese Viral TikTok Song Explained (No, It’s Not About Samsung)

The viral Chinese ‘Samsung’ Tiktok song is also not about cheating or getting back with your ex.

Manya Koetse

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Over the past few days, a Chinese song ‘challenge’ has been going viral on TikTok, with various TikTokers from America and beyond mastering the phonetics of a Mandarin song, lip-syncing it and delivering their own dramatic performance.

TikTok user Ajibola Olalekan posted the popular part of the song on March 16, receiving over 71k likes within two weeks, with various TikTokers using the sound for their own videos, some receiving millions of views (watch).

TikTok creator Emily, also known as Maverickmother, lip-synced the song from her car, writing: “Admit to your husband you were wrong and apologize or sing in Chinese..”

The popular video maker Azz (@theofficial_azz) also posted a video of himself singing the song, writing: “Admit you were wrong or sing in Chinese.”

TV host and content creator Mark Odea took things a bit further and put on a dramatic performance of himself lip-syncing the song, writing: “I didn’t realize this song was in English.” According to his interpretation of the song, the lyrics go like this:

Woman cheat
So true in shit sun sun
Would you lie? you shout It’s over Ya
But you are now women itchy
Loud loud itchy ya
Woman cheat send some d
Ching eat chang

While some think the song is about cheating or getting back with your ex, others also refer to this song as the “Chinese Samsung song,” because they believe the singer is singing about ‘Samsung.’ It’s actually the word cāngsāng (沧桑) they’re hearing, meaning ‘great changes’ or ‘ups and downs.’

The Chinese song in question is “This Life’s Fate” (今生缘) by the Beijing-born singer Chuan Zi (川子, real name Jiang Yachuan 姜亚川, born in 1969). Released in 2009, it is one of his most famous songs, which is about life and friendship.

The part of the song that has recently gone viral on TikTok is as follows:

我们今生注定是沧桑
Wǒmen jīnshēng zhùdìng shì cāngsāng
哭着来要笑着走过呀
Kūzhe lái yào xiàozhe zǒuguò ya
朋友啊让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a ràng wǒmen yìqǐ láo láo míngjì ya
我们今生兄弟情谊长
Wǒmen jīnshēng xiōngdì qíngyì cháng

“Our lives are destined to be full of change
We cried when we came [into this world], let’s leave with a smile
My friend, let’s remember very well
We’ll always be like brothers in this life”

By now, the Tiktok trend of foreigners pouring their hearts into mastering a song they may not even understand has also attracted attention on Chinese social media, where many netizens are enjoying the spectacle.

“The feelings of a ‘straight guy’ are just universal,” one top commenter writes (the word used is ‘Zhinan’ 直男, originally referring to heterosexual males, but then came to refer to an entire category of men in China).

“They may not get the exact meaning of the song, but the emotion is there,” others say.

The song, filled with nostalgia, contemplates life and death, emphasizing our shared journey and finding solace in companionship.

If you want to master the entire song yourself, here are the full lyrics (see full song here):

我们今生有缘在路上
Wǒmen jīnshēng yǒu yuán zài lùshàng
In this life, we are destined to be on this journey

只要我们彼此永不忘
Zhǐyào wǒmen bǐcǐ yǒng bù wàng
If only we never forget each other

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya
My friend, let’s remember very well

别在乎那一些忧和伤
Bié zàihu, nà yīxiē yōu hé shāng
Don’t mind about all that worry and pain

我们今生注定是沧桑
Wǒmen jīnshēng zhùdìng shì cāngsāng
Our lives are destined to be full of change

哭着来要笑着走过呀
Kūzhe lái yào xiàozhe zǒuguò ya
We cried when we came [into this world], let’s leave with a smile

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya.
My friend, let’s remember very well

我们今生兄弟情谊长
Wǒmen jīnshēng xiōngdì qíngyì cháng
We’ll always be like brothers in this life

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya
My friend, let’s remember very well

我们今生有缘在路上
Wǒmen jīnshēng yǒu yuán zài lùshàng
In this life, we are destined to be on this journey

只要我们彼此永不忘
Zhǐyào wǒmen bǐcǐ yǒng bù wàng
As long as we never forget each other.

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya
My friend, let’s remember very well

别在乎,那一些忧和伤
Bié zàihu, nà yīxiē yōu hé shāng
Don’t mind about all that worry and pain

我们今生就像梦一场
Wǒmen jīnshēng jiù xiàng mèng yī chǎng
This life is like a dream.

有你陪喝醉了又何妨
Yǒu nǐ péi hēzuì le yòu héfáng
What’s the harm in getting drunk together with you

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya
My friend, let’s remember it very well

凡尘过后终了无牵挂
Fánchén guòhòu zhōngle wú qiānguà.
After this mundane life, there will be no worries

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya.
My friend, let’s remember it very well

By Manya Koetse

Independently reporting China trends for over a decade. Like what we do? Support us and get the story behind the hashtag by subscribing:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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