June 14, 2009

Judging Short Films at the Shanghai Film Festival

By MOFILM

Shanghai Film Festival Lowdown

 

I’m here at the Shanghai Film Festival listening to the President’s lecture with Danny Boyle (director of Slumdog Millionaire, The Beach and Trainspotting), Stephen Daldry (The Reader, Billy Elliot), Jiang Wen (famous Chinese Director) and Phil Agland (Documentary Film Maker). The discussion is around ‘making simple films’ and they are all talking about their experiences and professional interest. Danny talked about humour, in the light of human suffering, such as what he witnessed in Mumbai with Slumdog. He said that what is amazing, is that people can still laugh in the face of such suffering. That is a real tool for cross cultural relationships and film making. He also talked about some of the dark humour he witnessed when making films like Trainspotting in Glasgow. It certainly rings true with my experience, taking part in judging the short film section. In a room full of Chinese people, without my interpreter I would have been sunk, but the sense of humour amongst us quickly won over and I had a fantastic time looking at films from Cuba, Europe, China and beyond.
Sat in a large room with very few westerners, and yet three Brits on the stage, it strikes me that there is a huge wealth of talent here in China that we haven’t even seen yet. The discussion is following a fairly normal line of questioning about “Why do people always assume when you make a film its autobiographical?”. I must admit its hard to see the well spoken Stephen Daldry as a young dancer in a mining village in the north (Billy Elliot). What I’ve noticed is that there is a thirst for innovation here. Its even written on the banners lining the roads about Shanghai Expo 2010. Everyone has a mobile ‘phone, but is a bit like 2007 back in the UK. Its all text and pre- pay with Youtube like sites taking off – although its not Youtube, its Tudou, a chinese website, along with MSN messenger and other online tools.
Yesterday someone at Shanghai TV said to me “Do you really think that normal Chinese people have the tools and the skills to make a film for mobile?”. Actually I do and it would seem Mr Boyle agrees. He said “We used $1500 HD cameras in 28 Days Later to great effect and again in Slumdog. It may be dangerous at times, but you get into the heart of the action more easily”. I asked whether how the panel felt about new technology and whether Chinese film makers could use this to get their break on the global stage. Stephen Daldry seemed to think that the idea of a ‘global stage’ is wrong. That this is about stories that appeal to a subset of society. He doesn’t make films for the audience, he just wants to tell a good story. Maybe he has a point, but reaching people in a personal way, I think, is changing with the Internet and mobile. We also have more choice than ever to shape our on trends, just look at some of the viral hits on Youtube. With 4 Billion mobile ‘phone users, there is a big change coming. Danny seemed to be more on the MOFILM wavelength, seeing new technology as a great enabled. He talked about how “There are probably kids somewhere inventing a way of lip-syncing Jiang Wen so he talks in English!”. I couldn’t help thinking though, that most people here had come to see Jiang Wen, which maybe proves the point, who needs a global stage with a population close to 1 Billion and who are these Brits anyway?
From my perspective, I can see a lot of similarities with the people here not least of which is a good sense of humour but a thirst for new technology and learning. To this end we’ll be working more in China and showcasing content from here. Watch out for more…
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