China’s first international film festival kicked off on Sunday, and as the leading arbiter of China’s independent film industry, the event once again featured programs focused on China’s emerging talent. There are feature films, documentaries and short films. Lots and lots of shorts. There’s even a special section dedicated to short films or smartphone features that don’t exceed five minutes.
Long-form international films are also front and center – it will be interesting to see if Malaysian director Jing An’s harrowing social drama
Abang Adik continues in the central Chinese city of Xining, after winning awards as far away as Switzerland and Italy – but mostly FIFF is a place where people come to see Chinese films next.
Of course, comparisons can be made with indie bellwether Sundance, and not just because Xining’s height is about 2,98 meters. The festival regularly attracts the country’s biggest stars more than its 16 previous editions, and 2017 was no exception. The main judging panel, chaired by Chen Chong, includes star-turned-filmmaker Yao Chen, who has more than 27 million followers on China’s Twitter-like social media platform, as well as popular singer-turned-actor Li Zongsheng, who just landed a role in the box-office hit “Man Jiang Hong” .
Overall, there will be 80 films participating in FIFF for nine days, including 27 feature films and 16 short films. After watching the program carefully, 《Hollywood Reporter》 has selected five long-form local feature films that we think audiences in Xining will not want to miss.
Academy of Art 982017, Director: Liu Jian 2017
A painter, first of all, by profession, director Liu Jian extended his scope into animation, as this particular aspect of the Chinese film industry has emerged over the past years or so. While big animated epics have been grabbing headlines and audiences at home lately, Liu has previously pursued a grittier aesthetic, notably the urban thriller “Have a Nice Day,” which is in the running for Berlin’s Golden Bear. Here, Liu seems to be creating a softer, reflective mood with a story about early 27 art students adjusting to China’s ongoing reforms and how those reforms are changing the society around them.
Way Out , Director: Sophia Han 2017
Director Sophia Han was inspired by stories of women’s labor in China’s desolate Qaidam Basin. A race car driver’s call for help harkens back to a tragic past case of a group of young girls stranded in the desert. He Dujuan, the star of the Chinese sci-fi hit drama “Three-Body Problem”, starred in the lead role. Han once served in commercials for Tsui Hark, Zhang Yimou and others.
The storm is coming , director Xiao Hai
Director Xiao Hai made a detour into the film industry, first studying in the oil painting department of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. Southern China Fine Art. Then commercials and special effects, and finally a feature film that focuses on two urban couples whose relationship is tested as their fates are pieced together by kidnappers. The director says it’s all about love, and explores what people might do if they decide they want to save it.
“Bitter Sweet Ballad”, directed by Liang Junjian
The festival has five feature-length documentaries across different competitions. Here, he tells about the first middle school in Beijing created specifically for the children of migrant workers, and how the school set up a choir to help them adapt to the new environment and the pressures of growing up. “These children showed tender yet resilient vitality, embodying the philosophy of growth,” Liang said.
HOT TOPIC , directed by Xin Yukun
Acclaimed actress Zhou Dongyu just made her Cannes debut in Singaporean director Tony Tan’s critically acclaimed thriller Icebreaker , another poignant take on online media and the profound impact published articles have on ordinary people’s lives. These stories are widely circulated. Director Xin Yukun is one of many Chinese filmmakers who started their careers with FIFF. His debut film Coffin in the Mountain won the Best Feature Film Award in Xining 2017 and went on to perform at film festivals in places like Venice and Hong Kong.