Review of the 10th BJIFF Masterclass & Workshop: Masters’ Dialogues · Pursuit · Inheritance

  Recently, the 10th Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF) has ended up a successful event. This has been a special year. While we cannot physically meet each other due to the COVID-19 epidemic, yet it has never really dampened the desire of fans and filmmakers to communicate with each other. Having also overcome many difficulties, the masterclasses and workshop of the 10th BJIFF were held as scheduled with high quality. Centering on film industry and production, the speakers were renowned masters from East and West, including Chinese directors Ang Lee, Stanley Kwan and Jessica Hausner with Golden Palm nominations, as well as the industry experts from Hollywood, the film industry's powerhouse. This is also the first time that BJIFF has adopted an online approach to bring audiences and guests together in an unprecedented way. In the four events, male and female creators and producers, from the East and West, conducted meetings and exchanges online and offline to have interactions. As a result, we see the development direction of Chinese films in the future and the infinite possibilities of film as an art and industry.

  Films embody cultures, and films in different cultures enable us to have a clearer understanding of differences and commonalities. As an imported product, the film has been always facing a problem in China: what on earth is the Chinese film? What is the position of Chinese films in the international arena, and how should it move forward? What kind of values and content can Chinese films contribute to the international films?

  In this respect, the film master Ang Lee has the say. Concerning the creative differences in the East and the West, Ang Lee shared his opinions in his masterclass, “In the East, we emphasize the artistic conception, which means something exists as you wish. That is my experience. For our paintings, people are very small in contrast to the sky, land, mountains and waters. A large space is left blank for the sake of the artistic conception and the structure. Presumably, the West is inhabited by nomadic tribes, who tend to conquer and attack, and thus individual decisions can change the world. Also, that makes the western films so thrilling.”

  However, there must be a possibility for the fusion of eastern and western cultures during the transmission process. Ang Lee pointed out that directors in the East should think about "how to give full play to what we are used to, what we are good at, such as the artistic conception, the hidden structure, and the overall sense of reverence for heaven and earth, and then integrate them into western culture". 

  As a matter of fact, there have been continued communications and fierce conflicts between Chinese films and the imported foreign cultures. For the MPA Representative Workshop this year, Ellen Eliasoph, producer of Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons and Shadow, said excitedly that though she worked for an American company, yet she grew up as the Chinese films developed. During her career, the creative experience of the most successful co-productions lies in the fact that we should base our productions on Chinese cultures while making use of the western elements. Specifically, we rely on Chinese concepts, genres and stories, while making use of foreign technological resources, thus delivering a more brilliant Chinese story with the support of the western elements. Concerning the prospects of the Sino-western co-productions, Andre Morgan, producer of Million Dollar Baby and The Warlords, reviewed his working experience in China over the past twenty years. He said that China's film industry has made obvious progress, while staff quality has reached the international levels, "in five to ten years, China will become the first-class film and television production center worldwide."

  Of course, the East is not unchanged, especially the Chinese films, which have undergone intense evolution. Each generation of Chinese filmmakers have proactively made efforts and attempts in terms of filming technique and aesthetic style, and these attempts have not only given rise to the magnificent landscape of "Chinese film", but also have drawn a colorful scroll of Chinese films. Among them, Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan has made tremendous contributions. Not only has he portrayed Chinese women and brought them to major film festivals around the world, but also his profound and rich understanding of women has changed the traditional depiction of female characters in Chinese films.

  When talking about his working method, Kwan summarized, "When I am shooting a female character, I don’t work only with female feelings. I straddle between men and women, and sometimes I can even shake off the point of view of men and be objective about the female characters in my own films. However, sometimes I walk into my female characters' world with a little bit of self-pity, which is an interesting contradiction. I don't really like the tag that 'Stanley Kwan can only shoot female characters’, but I do enjoy the conflict and complexity of dealing with female characters in films."

  Speaking of the female perspective, the renowned Austrian director Jessica Hausner also held a Masterclass for online sharing. Reviewing in detail her creative experience from short film to long film to nominations at the Festival de Cannes., Hausner interpreted the theme and aesthetic exploration in her films, fully sharing her film-making techniques. Hausner displayed the unrelenting spirits of conducting inquiries and analyses, while showcasing the uniquely keen perception of a female creator. Speaking of her career, she said she wanted to make films "about incoherent truths, about missing links and questions that don't have answers, but on the other hand, some of my audiences just want answers. How to solve this problem becomes the core of my thinking for some time."

  From a young director to a mature producer obtaining attention and honors on the international stage, Hausner has never stopped on the path to become a pioneer filmmaker. Being a woman, she said that "If we give encouragement, there will be more female producers in the industry, and it will be commoner for women to make films. Female producers will receive more equal treatment. I think the most important thing right now is to encourage more women to become filmmakers, to make female producers the norm until we don't have to ask these questions anymore."

  Reviewing the workshop and the three masterclasses at the 10th BJIFF, we can see professionalism and sincerity everywhere. The moment they received the invitation, guests all stated that the events rose to the occasion during the epidemic. It is of great significance to build an online communication platform by modern technology and enable everyone to get together online for a warm meeting. The creators fully shared their valuable creative experience with each other, and the insights of people in the industry were inspiring. The audience enthusiastically asked questions, while the guests gave us a deeper understanding of the operation process and mechanism of film creation and the film industry from different perspectives. The new challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic have inspired new thinking, and we have also seen the international film industry's renewed confidence in Chinese films and their keen expectations for films of high quality. Following the workshop and masterclasses, we will pack our bags and embark on our journey again as the market restores.

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