The Spring Festival, otherwise known as the Lunar New Year, is a very important holiday in China. The vibrant New Year celebrations bring joy to thousands of people not only in China, but all over the world. With the Year of the Dog beginning last week, what better way is there to spread that joy than bringing Chinese culture to our beloved community? The William & Mary Confucius Institute (WMCI) sponsored three Chinese cultural events at this year's Global Film Festival: the "Looking at China: Short Films and Discussion" workshop, a screening of the film "Cook Up a Storm," and a panel discussion titled "When Chinese Cinema Meets the World."
Looking at China: Short Films and Discussion
The Looking at China Project has been around for about five years now. It invites young filmmakers who have never been to China, to go there and create a short film based on their experiences. For this workshop, five of the Project's best films were selected for screening. The films which were screened are called: All That Grows, The Gap Between Us, The Search for Manchus, Voice Notes about Mr. Wang, and The Red Flag Canal. These and more of the Looking at China Project's short films can be viewed here, on the Project's website.
What was striking about these films was the deeply personal lens through which the viewer would see China. For instance, the filmmaker behind Voice Notes about Mr. Wang narrated the film as though it were a letter to a family member or close friend. There was very little diegetic dialogue in the film, but instead glimpses of moments the filmmaker spent with a professional artisan named Mr. Wang. It was a very pensive, beautiful film. Another film, The Gap Between Us, featured a portion where an erhu instructor reminisced with his father about how, exactly, he started playing the erhu as a child. The two had differing versions of the story, and their lighthearted bickering was charming. Overall, the films shown at this workshop presented their subjects not simply as strangers to be observed, but as friends the viewer has not met. The films made China feel close, and the attendees left with some lovely, personal insights on what life is like in China today.
Cook Up a Storm Film Screening
On Thursday night, we kicked off the screening of Cook Up a Storm with a beautiful performance from Tingting Mei, an award-winning Pipa player and WMCI volunteer teacher, in Kimball Theatre. We even uploaded a brief excerpt from her performance to our Twitter.
The film itself followed the story of two chefs: Paul Ahn, a French-trained Korean chef with three Michelin stars, and Sky Ko, who is known for making Cantonese street food, as they go head to head in an international cooking competition. The film had a fun story with charming characters, but what stood out the most was the close-up shots of the dishes made in the film. The beautiful colors made for mouth-watering visuals. The cinematography was perhaps one of the finest points of a very enjoyable movie.
Now of course, any such film would inevitably leave its audience with a strong Chinese food craving. Following the film, Peter Chang, owner of the Peter Chang Chinese Restaurant franchise, delivered a brief speech after the film, wishing the audience a happy New Year, before welcoming everyone to our reception at the Williamsburg Art Gallery. Peter Chang Restaurant catered the reception, and the food was just as delicious as what we saw being made in the film, if not even more so. The reception filled the Art Gallery with life and conversation, creating a perfect ending to a wonderful night.
Chef Chang's speech and Tingting's performance can both be found on our Global Film Festival Playlist on YouTube.
Panel Discussion: "When Chinese Cinema Meets the World"
WMCI's final Global Film Festival event took place on Friday, February 16th in Kimball Theatre. For this event, Professor Jessica Chan from the University of Richmond and Professor Jessica Wong from American University came to share their perspectives on Chinese cinema and globalization. Professor Chan's presentation primarily focused on how kisses were represented in early Hollywood films, and how that influenced kisses in Chinese films such as the 1937 film Street Angel (not to be confused with the 1928 Hollywood film of the same name). She discussed how Western and Chinese films avoided showing intimacy on-screen with editing. Cuts away from kisses, as well as sound cues, would signal to the audience that the kiss had taken place, while not necessarily showing it as it takes place.
Professor Wong, on the other hand, looked at how Chinese cinema influenced film globally. One example she brought up was how Barry Jenkins, director of the Academy Award-winning film Moonlight, has spoken at length about how he was inspired by the work of Wong Kar-wai, a well-known filmmaker from Hong Kong. China's growing influence in global cinema is a fascinating trend.
This event was chaired by Professor Chun-yu Lu from the William & Mary Chinese Studies Department.
We hope that everyone who attended these events not only had a great time, but also learned more about China at the Global Film Festival this year. Thank you all for joining us, and we here at WMCI wish everyone happiness and prosperity in the Year of the Dog!