Over the course of last few weeks, distinguished producers and film industry professionals from mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong gathered in the SVA Theatre and Symphony Space for the 2019 CineCina Film Festival. The festival hosted screenings of 22 Chinese art-house films, spanning the range of local documentaries and short films to animations and comedies. As a movie lover and film student based in NYC, I can’t wait to bring you the inside stories of the very first and only Chinese “film feast”!
On April 5, the opening ceremony of the film festival encounters a heavy rainy evening. Yet, thirty minutes before the ceremony, the audience from all over NYC had joined the long queue outside SVA Theatre. After a short speech from the organizer Vina, the producer announced the Short Film Awards to a young filmmaker who just graduated from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
In addition to a touch of the glamour of screenings, the film festival features a special Lou Ye Retrospective, a screenwriter-director who strives for bringing to light his interpretation of social issues of the marginalized in the Chinese society. Recognized as a sixth generation filmmaker, he often focuses on contemporary social issues disillusionment, rebellion, and dissatisfaction. I particularly adore his film “Blind Massage” that was played on April 6, in Mandarin with English subtitles. Lou Ye ingeniously provides an immersive scene for the audience to “touch” the blinds’ community. Within it, we witness seduction, suffering and — above all — the search for love. The film doesn’t just give a superficial insinuation of Chinese society, nor does it simply understand the blind as a repressed individual. His wisdom goes far beyond these interpretations. He expressed a lasting truth to the audience in his unique and fluent film language – Whether you see it or not, love itself will not be misidentified.
CineCina’s mission is that cinema is a powerful medium that bridges language differences to convey ideas across different cultural backgrounds. Under such belief, it chose to exhibit the most riveting and thought-provoking films to a diverse audience. It also opens a rare “window” for the domestic Chinese film directors who suffer from strict rules of censorship. “The government’s inspection of films has been getting stricter,” says Beijing-based film director Huang Han in a CNN interview, who spoke under a pseudonym to avoid damaging his career. “Only the really famous directors might get a pass. All the rest of us have to follow a strict protocol.” Lou Ye’s film series was publicly criticized in a state-run newspaper five years ago for its “negative influence on society”. Ever since, Chinese directors who want to create independent or unconventional films in mainland China must sterilize their work before the screening.
Looking at it in this way, I admire Cinecina’s determination to bring a diversity of voice to the public in NYC. It dares to fight the system that suppresses artists’ creativity and originality. I am more than confident that CineCina will be holding its second film festival next year for its great success, and I hope to see you then!
All photo credits and the official website: https://cine-cina.co