Sundance Institute Joins Beijing Film Academy

Xin Sheng is a junior student at the Communication University of China in Beijing. She is the student journalist of the American Embassy in China and has internship experience at many large media organizations including the Xinhua News Agency. She loves movies, especially documentaries, and hopes to work as a journalist in the future. Check out her photo album from Film Forward in Beijing here.

Young Chinese Directors Realize their Documentary Dream

Sundance Institute has come to China to join young artists who want to create work that reflects the huge transformation in current Chinese society. The most important and prestigious independent film organization is working with CNEX to hold a documentary workshop for Chinese directors in Beijing.

It is a Thursday afternoon and the weather is fine, just suitable for starting a discussion. Walking into the CNEX Café in Beijing, everybody is deeply attracted by the art atmosphere here. The experts of the Sundance Documentary Film Program (DFP) were here, giving face-to-face advice and guidance to Chinese documentary directors, helping them build up their work.

Photos by Robert A. Raines.

Eleven documentary outlines coming from nationwide were selected this year and they were divided into three groups. These projects provide various perspectives of the Chinese society, expressimg the emotion and feelings of normal people in a different spectrum. The Advisors carefully listened to the artists’ ideas, gave instructions, and also answered questions about script writing, film shooting, production, and release.

Many excellent independent filmmakers and documentary directors are present in this workshop. Stanley Nelson, the filmmaker who is best known for his groundbreaking historical documentaries, gave a lecture on preparing and producing a documentary. Other award-winning documentary directors including Cara Mertes, Arthur Dong, and Lixin Fan also participate in the workshop. They will give more guidance in the next two and a half days for the directors and audience.

CNEX, which stands for “Chinese Next,” is a non-profit organization founded by a group of professionals and filmmakers from mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Aiming at providing opportunities and help for young Chinese directors, they held a series of activities and have funded more than 40 documentaries since 2006.

Winter’s Bone Surprises the Students

Sundance Institute has walked into the campus of Beijing Film Academy with the Film Forward program. On the evening of Thursday, April 14, the opening ceremony was held and two outstanding films - Winter’s Bone and Amreeka - were shown in the auditorium in BFA.

The assembly hall, which has a capacity of 800 people, was packed out with students, teachers, and journalists. Never had they seen a film that reflects American life in such a realistic and tough way; the audience was so surprised and even shocked by the movie. Unlike most of the films which depict the modern and luxurious life in big cities in the U.S., Winter’s Bone reveals a life story of a strong girl who wants to find her missing father. Unlike the Hollywood movies, Winter’s Bone lacks sexy beauties, a typical happy ending, and expensive props sponsored by famous brands - there is only the brutal and harsh life of people living in the Ozark Mountains. The female protagonist, played by Jennifer Lawrence, shows remarkable resolve, determination, and bravery in hunting down her missing father while trying to keep her family intact.

After the film, the producer, Kathryn Dean, carried out the Q&A with the students in the BFA. She answered a myriad of questions in various aspects of the film production. Students were interested about the casting process of this movie, the release and promotion of the low budget film, the cost control, and the production cycle of Winter’s Bone. The young, talented producer answered those questions and had a great interaction with the Chinese students.

Lead photo: