June 18th, 2019
New talent judges looking for Asian style and creativity
By Rachel Lu
Young talents are the future of Asian cinema, and the Asian New Talent Prize was established by the film festival committee to recognize and honor those first venturing into the field.
The 22nd Shanghai International Film Festival invited five esteemed judges to view films and award this year’s prize. On Monday, the five judges answered media questions prior to their judging sessions.
The chair of the judging committee is Chinese director and scriptwriter Ning Hao who won the Asian New Talent Prize in 2005 for children’s film “Mongolian Ping Pong.” Ning said he was excited to witness the creativity of young directors. Reflecting on his own first directing job, Ning admitted that money was the biggest challenge, and although the process was arduous, he said his hard work paid off.
Ning identified his judging standards for actors. “It’s about a perspective of creativity, too see if the actor is the correct fit. I don’t like to categorize actors. I think that is unfair. The actor’s work should come from a thorough understanding of the script,” he said.
Judge Yuya Ishii, Japanese director, producer, and scriptwriter, was looking forward to viewing excellent new Asian films. He believes maintaining the confidence of young talent is most important so they can persevere in the industry. An award-worthy film must have an entire team of passionate, determined people, Ishii said.
Singer-turned-actor and now director, Judge Alec Su was eager to recognize budding talent and artful creativity, and to collaborate with his fellow judges in the process. “Young talents want understanding from the older generation, and know that their determination is right,” said Su.
He said that being a director gave him a better understanding of the profession and the leadership skills the role needs. For his last film, “The Left Ear,” Su selected young actors who had matured in the industry. Humbly, Su said he could not take credit for their successes, but he was confident in them because they wanted to be actors and not superstars. He will look for similar traits in his judging role.
Judge Tan Zhuo will be assessing candidates from an actress perspective and will be looking for novel material. Like her colleagues, Tan identified her biggest challenge in the beginning as money, but she was able to stay true to herself regardless. Tan thought actors should be comfortable in roles that best fit their acting styles. Even as a seasoned actress, she has been involved with many low budget films and invested as a producer to ensure the films came to fruition. Tan hoped to value more literary films in the future.
A prominent member of the Singaporean film community, Judge Phillip Cheah is keen to get a glimpse into the new trends of Asian cinema. “When I was first beginning, I had a lot of freedom, and that changed my part of the world,” Cheah reminisced. Taking into consideration the spectrum of development in the film industries of Asia, Cheah wanted to see more breakthroughs that were interesting. He has met many young but mature Chinese directors, a testament to the diversity in the field.
On behalf of his colleagues, Chair Ning said: “Our judging standard will be young Asian directors with style and potential in creativity.” Good luck to all the contesting films, and the prize will be awarded on Friday.
Previously-banned producer Nai An now hails Chinese film funding
By Rebecca Davis
Chinese and foreign producers discussed the shifting funding landscape for their projects over the years at a panel on indie film production at the 22nd Shanghai International Film Festival.
Nai An, longtime collaborator of controversial 6th generation Chinese filmmaker Lou Ye, kicked off the talk with a look back at her producing career, which has spanned the entire range of his works from 2000’s “Suzhou River” to last year’s “The Shadow Play.”
The pair received five-year bans over 2006’s “Summer Palace” which depicted the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and was screened at Cannes Film Festival without the permission of government censors.
A decade ago, Nai An was forced to look to Europe for arthouse funding which was largely unavailable in China. Her first seven or eight films were all made with foreign investment, she said, circumspectly sidestepping the issue that most of them were also banned in her home country. But now, “things are changing.”
Europe’s economy is faltering, and many entities have cut budgets once designated for Asian or Chinese directors, she said. More Chinese filmmakers have also learned about such channels, making competition fierce for finance.
More importantly, China’s economy has, in the meantime, boomed. Financing prospects within China have improved thanks to “a huge amount of hot money, but also more and more professional funding sources that have emerged over time,” she said. “There’s now a huge amount of capital in China,” she said. “I suggest that young directors try to find their funding here.”
The statement was notable coming from a producer with so many of her own works still unavailable on China’s mainland. But stances clearly change along with economic tailwinds: her last three collaborations with Lou Ye marked their return to working within the state system, and “The Shadow Play,” their most theatrically successful feature yet in China, enjoyed a box office of RMB 64.7 million (US$9.3 million).
Director and producer Tomm Moore, whose “Song of the Sea” won the Shanghai festival’s Golden Goblet Award in 2014 for best animated film, also took a long look back at his own trajectory.
When he first started making animated features 20 years ago, “the European co-production model was just finding its feet, becoming a way of making an independent animated film,” he explained. Producers from all over Europe would meet once a year to discuss projects and find partners.
The model worked for decades, but Moore says things began to change three or four years ago when several European features received international attention and were nominated for Oscars. Then Netflix arrived on the scene — and so did Chinese money.
“Suddenly we’re making independent movies but with a big corporation involved, and they have different concerns than just a small group of studios who band together to make independent movies,” he said.
Under the old co-production approach, directors and producers had much more freedom to make exactly the film they wanted to make. But “when you take money from a big funder, you have to take in their concerns,” he observed. “We’re kind of tip-toeing into a more commercial, mainstream way of working with studios.”
Filipino director Brillante Mendoza discusses his docu-drama style
By Matthew Scott
Brillante Mendoza has arrived at the Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF) to conduct a master class fresh from the set of his latest production in the Philippines.
Helmer, best known for Kinatay which won him the best director prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009.
Mendoza has directed 16 features in 13 years and produced several TV series, documentaries and shorts. He is a mentor for the Philippines’ emerging generation of filmmakers.
“Working. I love to be working."
Kinatay announced Mendoza’s talent with its look at the fringes’ life of Philippine society. "Neo-realism" is a docu-drama style Mendoza uses to reveal the societal issues.
On the eve of his class, Mendoza discussed his route to a director, his docu-drama style and his relationship with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Growing up in the Philippines, did film festivals play a part in your own cinematic education?
No. I’m a country boy in Pamanga. In the 80s we didn’t have much access to international films. I watched many Filipino films. Moving to Manila for college changed everything. But I was still disconnected from cinema.
So how did your film journey begin and what attracted you to the industry?
The short version of a very long story is that I went from Fine Arts at university into advertising and was exposed to TV commercials. I was amazed by the whole filmmaking process. I like the idea of interpreting whatever you have in your mind into cinema, whether that be through production design, cinematography, directing.
What difference do you now feel those extra years of background work made?
I was well prepared at 45. When I started making films, I tried to merge cinema and advertising to my own style and aesthetics.
Can you take us through the evolution of that style?
I knew advertising was different from telling stories from my start. I want to create film reflecting their real lives and they would never forget.
One of the striking things about Alpha (2018) and about all your recent productions is just how real the actors make it feel. How closely do you work with them in character development?
On the set I tell my actors no acting. I don’t provide scripts or lines. I just give them the situation.
Do you think globally at all in terms of your films, or do they aim directly at a domestic audience?
In the Philippines we didn’t arrive global level. The third golden age of Philippine filmmakers is coming with the digital era. We are showing the world our ability and diversity. All the different streaming platforms are showing Filipino films.
How much are these emerging streaming platforms changing the landscape in general?
This is part of growing technology. Use them and to showcase whatever you have. Maximize it without compromising your work.
Has the growing global influence of the Chinese industry reached the Philippines?
There are a lot of Chinese investors talking with local filmmakers, and there are co-productions that are coming. I have been approached – even about doing films in China.
Can you give an insight into how you approach hosting a master class?
What I would like to share is how and what I have done my own stories with a limited budget. Investors can easily shy away from ideas if they are not commercial but they could risk because of low cost. You can make films in a not expensive way, without compromising your ideas, perspective and voice.
Yangtze Delta region open to more film and TV production co-ops
By Joyce Xu
Film and TV production cooperation will be enhanced in the Yangtze River Delta region, officials said at the ongoing 22nd Shanghai International Film Festival.
Major film and TV production bases in the region announced they will set up a cooperative network to boost the reputation and prosperity of culture and tourism industries in the area.
Yu Zhiqing, director of Shanghai Film and Television Production Services Institution, said there were rich location and production resources in the region.
They would collaborate to provide film crews from China and overseas with a wide range of services and information about filming policies.
The services will cover location coordination, camera and prop rentals and post-production.
To date, there are more than 30 film and TV production centers in the region. They have been locations for many well-known Chinese films and TV dramas, including “Lust, Caution,” “The Orphan of Zhao” and “The Legend of Zhen Huan.”
Many foreign crews also have started to film their productions in China. In terms of the relatively high cost for shooting in large cities like Shanghai, some film and TV projects will also be recommended to film in the neighboring provinces in the Yangtze River Delta.
Insiders expected that the integral cooperation will largely help to give impetus to cultural exchanges and local tourism.