Tiantan Award Revealed, Chinese Film Won Laureate Again
On September 29, the result of Tiantan Award was finally released at the closing ceremony of the 11th Beijing International Film Festival and five Chinese and foreign films shared nine major honors. Danish film The Pact won the Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress; Finnish film Any Day Now won the Best Supporting Actor and Best Music; Russian film A Siege Diary won the Best Director and French film Slalom won the Best Actress. Most surprisingly, the film Beyond the Skies won three awards: the Best Feature Film, Best Actor (all actors), and Best Cinematography. It’s another Chinese film winning the Tiantan Award for the Best Feature Film since the film 1942.
Beyond the Skies, the Best Feature Film at the 11th BJIFF
Diversified Emotions Create Resonance
When Zhang Songwen, the jury member, talked about his criteria, he said, "Emotional resonance is my first criterion for evaluation”. The emotional processing from different angles in the five award-winning films seems to have confirmed his criteria. Sometimes the emotion is heavy. For instance, Beyond the Skies weaves the emotional line between the protagonist Hong Qichen and the Little Whistle apart from the traditional war narrative. Little Whistle is only a child instead of a soldier. He falls in great danger due to a decision by Hong Qichen. The scene of his death is also the climax of the emotional outburst in the film. Sometimes the emotion is ironic, such as love, marriage and art involving sincere emotions turn out to be a game of "Pact" full of deception and exploitation. Sometimes the emotion is black, just like the evil in Slalom which is hidden in the inevitable ignorance of youth. They think what they get is the emotion, but it's nothing but the satisfaction of others’ desires. Sometimes the emotion is colorful, such as Any Day Now, in which a family enjoy the happiness despite the hardship of the “refugee” label, displaying the emotional support for inherent fragility in the hearts. The soil of emotions, either large or small, derives from society and develops in individuals. Some are beyond the experience and culture of ordinary people, but they can still achieve resonance with audiences with different levels and backgrounds. That’s the unique force of films, and the competition section including all these films is like a symphony conductor to enable the different resonances to produce harmony and form a unique melody for every film festival.
Stage Photo of Beyond the Skies
Diversified Authors Connect the World
Leste Chen, another jury member of Tiantan Award, said, “film in the Competition Section is the expression of different authors.” 15 films in the Competition Section come from 19 countries and regions of five continents, including the developed and developing countries as well as transnational cooperation, highlighting the internationalized film production and creation: African Americans (Night of the Kings), women (Slalom), masters (The Pact) and newcomers (Any Day Now). They represent different age groups and different beliefs from their own perspectives. Different expressions stimulate the collisions among jury members and shock the audience with the diversity. Due to the objective existence of competition mechanism, the breadth of diversity in final award-winning films has been greatly compressed, but the depth has been strengthened due to such a kind of concentration. Slalom, by a female director with starring female, seriously discusses the sexual psychological growth of female athlete. In the film Any Day Now, Hamy Ramezan, a new immigrant of Iranian descent in Europe, tells how a refugee family in Northern Europe is optimistic about life, which overturns many turbulent imaginations about the life of refugees in Europe. Facing the old theme "Will both great art and good life be achieved”, Bille August, the Danish master and the director of the Best Feature Film of Tiantan Award in 2019, shows the familiarity of style and the precision of technique with complicated relationship among the characters in his film The Pact. Russian director, Andrey Zaytsev, once again displays the vigor and strength of the Slavic people as well as the flow of affection in the film A Siege Diary.
Stage Photo of Slalom
Multiple Techniques to Help Creation
“Focus on technology and creative departments, whether the quality of their completion films is worthy of our awards as an encouragement.” Wuershan emphasized when talking about the criteria of film selection. Talking about films needs sensibility, making films needs rationality and evaluating films needs professionalism. Such a kind of profession is also closed related to the rationality of making films. With regard to the 10 honors of the Tiantan Award, the honor of Best Visual Effects is finally vacant. After all, there are no films with such wonder visual effects as that in Wolf Totem, Operation Red Sea and The Wandering Earth. None of the 15 films in the competition has ever tried to perfect and enrich their stories to realize the author's expression. Therefore, the vacancy of the honor is not a regret, it’s a persistence instead.
However, no spectacle visual effects does not mean no stunning visual effects. Two award-winning war films A Siege Diary and Beyond the Skies have achieved a unique visual experience with limited budgets. The film Beyond the Skies has attracted much attention since its nomination due to the participation of China Academy of Art. Compared to the storytelling, the film will inevitably undergo tests in the technical and aesthetic manner. As early as the rising of the sixth generation of directors, we have experienced the sky and land full of gunpowder in the north in the films such as One and Eight.
Stage Photo of Beyond the Skies
Beyond the Skies was filmed in the Longquan Mountain in Lishui, Zhejiang province. The beautiful scenery in the south of the Yangtze River, including the hills, the stone and trees, is very different from that in the north. When the "color reduction” called by the director appears, the dullness between black and white and colors highlights the tone of gray, making the overall picture more depressing and better matched to the vanguard’s atmosphere in the final battle. More interestingly, the mountain clouds in many shots are the natural ones at an altitude of 2000 meters instead of the artificial effects created by releasing dry ice. All these clouds used to cover the martyrs, but now in the natural gift, the actors and heroic spirits get intertwined inside like a dream. At the end of the film, the rain of blood suddenly falls; the scene gradually vanishes with the fading colors and (gun) sound also changes the common style of heroic farewell, turning the focus on the end of war to the sigh of the soldiers’ fate. The technique of using scenes to convey emotions and using scenes as metaphors in the Beyond he Skies indeed brings a poetic sense, which is unique among the realistic war films.
Stage Photo of Beyond the Skies
Another scene in the film also demonstrates the unique filmmaking technique. A soldier named Ding Songbai lost an arm after the explosion of a grenade. The actor’s arm seems to be all right at the beginning, so many audience believe that’s the effect of special makeup. In fact, the actor himself is a disabled. He wears an artificial limb at first so that it’s not easy to find the flaws during his wound treatment later. It really brings the real effect to the tragic scene.
Non-professional actors, full real-time shooting, decolorization treatment, enemy blurring and countless illusions, Beyond the Skies has innovated many conventional expression techniques commonly adopted by Chinese war films within the limited length. In a relatively mature market, such a type of film seems very fresh and unfamiliar, while the film festival is just the best platform to help such films break the strangeness and establish the familiarity. The Tiantan Award for Best Feature Film is not only an encouragement to Beyond the Skies, but also a solemn invitation to more Chinese filmmakers devoted to making unique and diverse voices.
* Complete list of the Tiantan Award winners at the 11th BJIFF is attached as follows: