Cornelia Principe, producer, The World Before Her
The chance to screen and discuss The World Before Her with an audience in China was truly a unique and thrilling experience. Not to mention getting to visit a country so much on the world stage, yet still such an enigmatic place.
After having now gone and come back, China remains somewhat of a mystery to me — with such contradictory pulls as tradition and modernity, communism and capitalism seemingly to function side by side. (I am also completely baffled by the fact that Beijing, a city with a population of 21 million, a full two-thirds the size of my entire country (Canada), can remain so spotless – I don’t think I saw as much as a candy wrapper on the street my entire visit.)
But the experience that stood out for me over the course of the five days of screenings and discussions happened on the very last day at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou.
After screening for a group of mostly university film students, one young female student, to my great delight, screened something for us! Her short documentary about an aging blacksmith who has worked day in and day out in the same time-honored way he has done for the last 50+ years, as the world around him has transformed so dramatically, was not without room for improvement — as any student or professional film for that matter would have – but, as a window into how this young filmmaker is thinking and seeing the world, it was priceless.
Seeing her story, for me, seemed a poignant illustration of not only her fast changing world, but also how, through the language of film, we can sometimes bridge cultural and linguistic divides. Which also made me think, that perhaps the mystery of a place, is not just for outsiders to unravel.