With art exhibition, 29 films to be screened, concert performances, panel discussions, and even a public lecture with key industry figures and academics, the Chinese Visual Festival is definitely full of highlights.
BZFilm caught up with James Mudge, PR and Marketing Manager, UK Organiser of the festival, to talk about this year’s exciting event.
This is the 3rd CVF event, with previous ones being held in 2012 and 2011. What, right now, could you say about how the festival has improved and progressed since it first kicked off?
Hopefully, we’re getting bigger and better each year, certainly in terms of the number of films we’re screening and attracting as submssions, as well as in the guests we are managing to get coming over to attend – we’ve already got some great plans for 2014. We’re also doing more screenings outsde of the festival, in London, around the UK, and hopefully soon in other countries, and so the next 12 months should really see us expanding considerably, fingers crossed.
Why this year’s festival is held in partnership with King’s College London?
We’re very happy to be partnering with King’s College London this year, as its given us the opportunity to work with leading academics and figures in the world of documentary film making and related social studies, including Chris Berry, one of the most noted figures in the field. Working with King’s has also given us access to some great facilities, and has helped us to continue our aim of holding a joint festival of art and film – we’re also featuring an art exhibition at the King’s Cultural Institute this year called Objects of Fantasy by Chinese avant-garde artist Wang Yuyang, which includes some pretty amazing installations.
This year’s festival said to have been significantly expanded to cover the Chinese speaking world. How much in your opinion has that been achieved?
I think we’ve achieved this very well, and have a real mix of films from different countries in the Chinese speaking world – out of our 29 films, I believe we’ve got 4 from Taiwan, 9 from Hong Kong, and 16 from Mainland China. Of course, Mainland China itself is huge, and our films come from a large variety of different regions and cultures, and cover a wide range of subjects and themes.
We’re also thrilled to have 4 director guests this year, from Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, all of whom are key figures in documentary film making, and in bringing them together for Q&A sessions and panel discussions we’re hoping to give audiences an insight into the different conditions of film industries and film making in different Chinese speaking countries.
The officialy CVF’s program says there will be Jury Prizes presented for the first time. Please tell us more about that in detail…
One of the key aims of CVF is to promote independent film making, and to recognise the incredible work by directors who are making films through sheer passion and force of will, and often great personal sacrifice. Since the festival has become more and more established on the documentary scene, including working with organizations back in China, this year we decided to start these awards as a way of really highlighting the very best of the films we receive – not an easy task, though thankfully we’ve had a great jury including Chris Berry, and two other experts and film makers in Tony Dowmunt and Guo Xiaolou.
Regarding Taiwan – how in your opinion is Taiwanese cinema doing these days, based on the films that are submitted for the festival?
Taiwanese cinema is definitely on the rise, and has been becoming more and more popular in other Asian countries, especially in terms of romantic comedies and dramas, which Taiwanese directors seem to be doing very well these days. Genre films from Taiwan are also starting to develop, and we’re seeing more action and horror, which have been appearing more frequently at international festivals.
From the perspective of the Chinese Visual Festival, the documentary industry in Taiwan has really taken off recently, and there’s been a recent wave of films which have been very popular at the domestic box office – we’re very lucky to be screening several works by director Wu Wuna, who will also be at the festival in person and who’s a perfect example of this, making highly accessible and entertaning, though meaningful and intimate films.
Since at BZFilm we absolutely love action and martial arts films, and China is well known for making films in both of the mentioned genres… are any such films even submitted to the CVF?
Sadly we’ve yet to receive any martial arts or action films, though I’d certainly love to, as I’m a huge fan of Hong Kong genre cinema in particular, and grew up watching all the classics.The festival definitely isn’t limited to documentaries, and we’d absolutely welcome indie fiction films of any genre, the more creative the better – this year we have our first animations (3 pieces by an upcoming director called Xiang Jianheng), and our first fiction film, the comedy Useless Man, which definitely has some Stephen Chow style touches, though in a very interesting way.
How has Chinese Cinema changed over the years in your opinion?
Mainland Chinese cinema in particular has been changing so rapidly and in so many ways, more than I could get into here. We’re seeing new, Hollywood style blockbusters, the gradual emergence of genre cinema, new forms of both nationalism and social criticism, not to mention changes in the way the US is starting to work with China, and the ways in which Hong Kong cinema and that of other Chinese speaking countries is being influenced by the muscle of the Mainland market – very interesting times.
From the point of view of the kind of films CVF usually deals in, there’s also a thriving indie and underground scene in different countries, which is very exciting to see, and hopefully more and more people around the world will start to get more access to these kinds of films and the stories they tell.
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