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Next Stop Beijing…

Next Stop Beijing…

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Film Forward arrived in Beijing on April 13 after a successful tour in Nashville, TN (visit our Nashville destination page for highlights). Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China, is both a modern metropolis and a city steeped in history. Famous for its historical sites – the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, its Imperial Gardens – the capital also prides itself as the cultural, educational, and political center of China, making it an ideal setting to begin our Film Forward China tour. After four days there, we’ll continue on to Wuhan and Xi’an for more screenings and discussions.

The U.S. Embassy in China along with a local organization, CNEX (China Next, a non-profit foundation devoted to the production and promotion of documentaries related to the Chinese people), are serving as the gracious hosts of Film Forward and have organized documentary workshops, presentations, screenings, and discussions with filmmakers for university students throughout each city on the tour. The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program will also participate in the trip and, in collaboration with CNEX, will hold a documentary workshop in Beijing to reach the burgeoning artist community.

Director Stanley Nelson (Freedom Riders), Line Producer Kathryn Dean (Winter's Bone), and Director Lixin Fan (Last Train Home) at Film Forward China Day 1 Orientation. Photo by: Meredith Lavitt

Filmmakers representing Film Forward are Stanley Nelson, Director (Freedom Riders); Kathryn Dean, Line Producer (Winter’s Bone); and Lixin Fan, Director (Last Train Home). Stanley and Lixin will both serve as advisors for the Documentary Workshop along with Sundance Institute Documentary Program Director Cara Mertes, Program Coordinator Win-sie Tow, and Film Forward Associate Director Meredith Lavitt. Joining them is filmmaker Arthur Dong (Hollywood Chinese).

Timing is everything, and we are honored and thrilled to announce that Lixin Fan’s film Last Train Home will be the first independent Chinese social and political documentary film to be commercially released in China. While we are there we will have the great privilege of screening the film as a sneak preview. Following our program in Beijing, we will travel to Wuhan in central China to screen and discuss films with students at Wuhan University. Connecting east with the west and intersecting the Yangtze and Hanshui Rivers, Wuhan is best known for the Yellow Crane Tower dating back to 223 AD. Wuhan University is over 100 years old and is one of the earliest national universities in China. From Wuhan, we’ll then travel to Xi’an, the birthplace of ancient Chinese civilization in the Yellow River Basin and the site of the famous Terracotta Warriors. Xi’an Jiaotong University, where we’ll conduct a series of discussions, is also one of the oldest universities in China.

It's not everyday that you have the opportunity to travel across the globe and serve as a catalyst for discussions about social issues that, on one level or another, affect us all. The power of storytelling has the ability to unite disparate communities, and that is what Film Forward is all about. After screening Freedom Riders in Tunisia, a young woman commented that it was a call to freedom, and that maybe now she could run for president (just a week prior to the uprising); in Turkey, an audience member fervently praised Cherien Dabis, exclaiming her film Amreeka was propaganda – not negative propaganda, but humanist propaganda – a sincere compliment to the authenticity of her story; and in Nashville, Tennessee, a young gay African American, recently homeless, reached out to Peter Bratt, director of La Mission, not to complain about his dire straits, but to ask how he can tell his own story. We look forward to the next two weeks and the conversations that unfold...