Following a path similar to directors Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club; Soul of the Banquet) and Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Brokeback Mountain; Life of Pi), a generation of filmmakers who grew up in China are being educated and developing their craft in the West. Outside of their formal training, these Chinese filmmakers are inspired by their discoveries and experiences in their home away from home. Compared to their peers in China, they explore a wider range of stories, themes, genres, and narrative styles. Their talent and insight are being recognized. At this year’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Student Academy Awards, three Chinese filmmakers, Teng Cheng, Yulin Liu, and Zijian Mu won in the Animation, Narrative, and Documentary categories, respectively.
To promote and encourage the current and future Chinese filmmakers in the West, EnMaze Pictures is launching North America Chinese Directors Short Film Tour, a five-US city road show featuring 21 short films. The films were selected from over 90 films by student filmmakers at 30 film schools in the United States by a professional jury of prestigious film scholars and experts including Richard Peña (former Program Director at Film Society of Lincoln Center), Hardy Justice (Senior VP of Maven Pictures) and Peggy Chiao (film producer and writer). The tour will host screenings in New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles where each city will see a different subset of the 21 films. Afterwards, EnMaze brings the films to China, where they are technically foreign films, for a homecoming of sorts of these filmmakers.
The tour begins in New York City at Quad Cinema 34 W. 13th Street at 7 PM on Thursday, October 9, 2014 with six films spanning drama, fantasy, action, and crime story genres. Tickets can be purchased here. Visit the tour’s Facebook page for updates and its Kickstarter campaign page to support its cause.
Here are the films:
“A Heart Felt” by Jingyang Cheng shares a story of a father’s gradual acceptance of his son’s homosexuality after a heart transplant surgery.
“Three Light Bulbs” by Min Ding examines through the technology the relationship between an estranged father and his daughter .
“Door God” by Yulin Liu tells the story about young girl who who eagerly awaits her mother’s return for Chinese New Year.
“The Right Thing” by Shan Jin has a touch of Elmore Leonard with its three factory workers who plan to steal money from their boss, but inadvertently get a badass Italian gangster involved.
“Caught” by Bruce Li – Jason Bourne and Blood Diamond come to middle school. A student experienced in trading illegal contraband, acts as a liaison between traders does his last job for his crush.
“So You’ve Grown Attached” by Kate Tsang visualizes growing up and the forced retirement of an imaginary friend.
We had the chance to talk to Fan He, CEO and co-founder of EnMaze Pictures about this tour and the Chinese directors it showcases.
Tell us about EnMaze Pictures.
When I worked in the real estate industry in China, I had the feeling that although China is getting richer, the spiritual life of ordinary Chinese people is still poor. So, I wanted to create and bring some good spiritual stuff to Chinese people. Movies were the first choice.
A friend of mine came up with the name “EnMaze” when I was talking with him about my idea. “EnMaze” means amazing and making things amazing. Founded in 2013, our goal is always making and introducing EnMazing movies and EnMazing new filmmakers.
Why did EnMaze want to organize this tour of North American Chinese directors? What’s unique about them?
While I was studying studying film the last 2 years, I found out that the Chinese filmmaker community is getting bigger and bigger. When I watch their films, they keep blowing me away. Unlike the young directors in China who main focus on contemporary urban stories, Chinese filmmakers in the States are making so many good movies in all kind of genres and topics. Sci-fi, fantasy, action, horror, psychological thriller, animation, documentary, black comedy. They open a brand new window to see the future of Chinese films.
Additionally, I started knowing more and more Chinese directors in the States. when I talked with them, I felt they are all very talented, easy to work with and most importantly, they are committed to to the filmmaker’s dream. When I attended the Student Academy Award screening earlier this year, 4 out of 9 finalist films were from Chinese directors. Their films were so unique, and I knew it was the right time to start this event, to raise the awareness of this community – North American Chinese directors.
By your estimate, how many Chinese film students are there in North America? in China?
It’s hard to estimate, but I feel there are hundreds of them in North America. In China, the number might be bigger, but there are very few good film schools for them in China.
Who is your audience?
Each film in our collection is targeted for a different audience. I think the main audience for the Tour screenings will be young students and film industry people. Our focus is to help this new generation of Chinese directors by promoting them and their work in the industry to bring new opportunities to them.
We also want to reach out to a broader audience to raise the public awareness that this new generation of filmmaker is rising.
What do you hope people will come away with after seeing these films?
I think they will come away with an amazing story, an experience of unique storytelling, and confidence in these new directors.
How did you choose the cities the tour will visit?
We chose cities based on whether it has film schools or a film industry presence. We also take the co-presenters into consideration.
These films will be shown in China. What do you anticipate the reception to be? Do you anticipate a different reaction or perception from a native Chinese audience?
I think “Wow, this was done by Chinese director?” will be the reaction. I believe it will have some influence on the industry. See, a whole new generation of Chinese filmmakers is right over there, and they are coming back.
The interview was edited for clarity.
Image: EnMaze Pictures