From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, the era of China Cinema was brimming with types, styles, and themes, spanning both social ideologies and historical significance in that way only film can convey. International recognition swiftly followed with director Zhang Yimou (张艺谋) box office smashes such as “Red Sorghum (红高粱)” and “Farewell My Concubine (霸王别姬).” Now it’s time for China’s post-90 creators to earn their cinematic credits. Clapper that!
Fact: Young Chinese film directors are progressively finding new ways to make the films they want to make. These guys will undoubtedly make a profound difference in Chinese cinema in the decade to come.
Fact: An increasing number of young Chinese filmmakers have studied abroad, adding different angles to modern China Cinema. What’s more, post-90 (90后 in Chinese) filmmakers such as director and producer at hand Summer Xinlei Yang, now have the opportunity to create work that gives a voice to the nation’s female filmmakers. And women in general.
Fact: Simple and impulsive, but at times sensitive and soul-searching, it’s time to get your production slang on as Temper takes five martini shots with Yang!
Silence On Set! At The Forefront Of Female Filmmaking
Yang is currently developing a documentary that zooms in on the new trend of single, but highly educated, Chinese women in their thirties, called “Leftovers” (剩女 | single Chinese women over 27, in Chinese), traveling to the U.S. to have their eggs frozen. The underlying reasons and social issues behind this noteworthy phenomenon fascinates Yang to Casablanca and back, herself being a Chinese woman facing similar challenges in life.
Yang’s experiences as a minority and female filmmaker pursuing her dream in the U.S. has deeply influenced her as a filmmaker and reflects itself in her body of work. Family and identity have been the focus in her past films including her American Film Institute Thesis Film “Our Home Here” and her other short “The Way Home.” Both films are currently circulating on the festival circuit and follow multiple storylines of first-generation Americans and immigrants.
The story of “Our Home Here” takes place in small-town Texas and revolves around a random act of violence at a fast-food joint. “The Way Home” talks about a frustrated second-generation American-Chinese teenager who seizes the wrong kind of opportunity to prove himself to a Chinatown hooligan and shows flashes of his father’s journey to the U.S. 16 years earlier. In the films, the characters’ lives unfold before the audience’s eyes.
Regardless of where they are, the dreams always come at a high cost. Question remains… What about Yang’s own pursuit of happiness?
Take One! China Cinema in three sentences — objectively speaking
Yang: Young and hopeful, definitely aligned with both its own characteristics, yet showing much room for growth. The new era of China Cinema boasts some huge market potential, but still seeks guidance in order to strike that marketing| quality balance. I will circle back to this balance later on. [Take Four, y’all!]
Moreover, the Middle Kingdom’s current national creative censorship conditions, ranging from musical to sexual to critical content, demand Chinese filmmakers possess a strong creative ability to face the limitation in their creation.
Take Two! China Cinema in three sentences — artistically speaking
Yang: There are, in the 21st Century, more and better Chinese films and independent Chinese filmmakers, and they are getting more attention, especially the young post-90 ones. We need to learn how to communicate with the world through film creation, but we cannot sacrifice the notion of human emotion and the emphasis on local culture that movies should come with, simply in pursuit of greater marketability. China is a big country with a rich history and culture; every day, there are all kinds of stories happening, which provide the medium that is film, with a lot of room for creative themes and inspiration.
Take Three! How do you approach the concepts of photography and filmography?
Yang: Photography at large consists of different still images that capture different moments, even ever so slight, in time. The art here lies in the savoir-faire, the mode in which the images are captured. The story is told within a frame.
Filmography uses both imagery and sound to tell a tale. It also relies more heavily on the relationship between each frame. In film, the connection between frames affects the storyline tremendously. It is their combination which ultimately brings you the full story.
Take Four! How do you envision the evolution of China’s urban creative scenery?
Yang: More and more people are now broadcasting live from the streets of China, with people from different age categories, styles and professions playing live music, taking pictures, or just capturing themselves anything and everything… Nevertheless, if you want to get more attention, you have to be good — not just cutting it close to “good enough.”
The whole “live culture” is currently very marketable, so the current market is particularly viewership-oriented, yet audiences in the future will surely have evolved their standards for quality content. The content that attracts these new audiences must be of higher quality to assure a continued growth curve.
Take Five! What films are on your personal hot-shot list?
Yang: Here we go! In order of personal preference — insert wink:
- Farewell My Concubine
- Eternal Sunshine of A Spotless Mind
- The Godfather
- Pulp Fiction
- Forrest Gump
- Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulin
- Léon: The Professional
- Singing in the Rain
Those creators who can work creatively within the constraints imposed upon them are more suitable for survival in the Chinese film market.
FEATURED IMAGE: Shooting “The Way Home” in 2018. The image comes courtesy of Summer Xinlei Yang, all rights reserved
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