Local Hero Tells Home Crowd to Shoot for the Stars

@aqhlok (69)
December 15, 2006 3:26am CST
Even as Zhang Yimou's costume epic Curse of the Golden Flower (Mancheng Jindai Huangjinjia) became a hot topic in town with its grand premiere yesterday in Beijing, another Chinese Venice Golden Lion laureate took his award winning film to Fenyang, a small town in North China's Shanxi Province, and his hometown, after the film's showing in several big cities. Jia Zhangke showed his Still Life (Sanxia Haoren) in a theatre which belonged to some army unit until it was abandoned years ago. A young Jia used to spend many happy hours watching films there. On the evening of December 11, hundreds of students, officials and factory workers crammed into the weathered grey building. Jia even lost his mother in the crowd but managed to get the help of a cop keeping order outside the gate whom he recognized as his former classmate. Although the local government had restarted the heating system in the theatre three days earlier, cold air sneaked in through the old wooden doors. There were no vendors selling snack or cola, and not even a rest room. A big white sheet held across the stage served as the screen, with the feet of the men behind it peeping out for all to see. Yet, no one left before the 110-minute art house film about the journey of two people from Shanxi to the Three Gorges ended. They watched intently, laughed boisterously and applauded gustily. A content Jia said he had always dreamt of taking films to small cities to rekindle a love for cinema among the locals. He wants to show his film in more places where cinema seems to have disappeared from ordinary lives. He believes this is not as hard as it may sound. "Just three days ago, this was an abandoned theatre," Jia said, "and now there is this big crowd in this run-down place appreciating the joys of cinema. It's not hard to achieve this, if we just try, like the characters in the film." Jia was not back in his hometown just to share his latest work with the locals. About 100 young film lovers were waiting for him in a factory plant, to talk about a common dream to shoot a good film. The "Young Film Lovers' Gala and Training Camp" was only an idea before South Korea invited Jia to teach 12 young Korean directors to shoot films soon after he won the Golden Lion this summer. At the workshop, many of South Korea's top actors, photographers and recording directors came to lend a hand to the young novices. Jia was impressed by the workshop which gave the young directors the chance to inch closer to their dreams. "I admired those young people," he recalled. "Any director would have shared his experience seeing the young faces. As I held classes there, I often thought how good it would be if the students were Chinese." This led him to start a training camp for China's future star directors, and to let producers and the public know of their existence. From now until March 1, 2007, any film lover can apply to join the 10-day workshop in Fenyang, where they will receive instruction in film shooting from one international and one Chinese director in May 2007. They will also get the chance to shoot a 10-minute film on the small town. All this comes free of cost. A jury comprising directors, film critics and actors will select 10 applicants, after assessing their passion and talent from their submitted works, which can be a DV work, a painting, an essay, or even a poem, said Jia. He said he would handle mainly the organization and not be involved in the instruction itself. "This is not a Jia Zhangke film training camp," he emphasized to those who came to meet him and know more about the plan. "It will be a place where you can boldly and freely express yourself. You can shoot a ghost story or a cops-and-robbers story any topic and genre is okay." Jia is now trying to invite top photographers and recording directors to lead the workshop. He said the the final works would tour China's colleges, and hopefully be shown in cinemas and at Asian film festivals, or be sold on DVDs. If resources permit, Jia hopes to be able to help the outstanding talents with longer films. "Cinema is young people's art," he said. "China's film industry is so obsessed with money now. I want the youngsters to focus on the joys of filmmaking, not how much one can earn from it." (China Daily December 15, 2006)
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