As the third largest film industry in the world, Chinese cinema is getting some much-deserved attention in the city of Davis.
The 2008 Asia Pacific Film Festival opens today and runs until Sunday. The event is free. A short presentation will accompany each screening, and a public symposium titled “Understanding Chinese Cinema: Gender, Modernity, Identity” will be held on Friday at 1:30 p.m. at Olson 6.
The festival is sponsored by Union Bank of California, who has funded the project since its inception in 1992.
“It involves education and cross-cultural understanding,” said Darla Young, vice president and branch manager of Union Bank in Davis. “It’s a good event for the whole community, and it’s a small price to pay for what we get out of it.“
The purpose of the Asia Pacific Film Festival was to raise multicultural awareness on the part of the UC Davis campus and the local community, said Sheldon Lu, professor of comparative literature and film studies.
Lu selected the films that will be screened for the festival. Kicking off the festival is Lost in Beijing, a movie directed by Li Yu that touches on the darker side of Chinese society, portraying prostitution, blackmail and rape in modern-day Beijing.
“There is a fairly wide range of films that are coming out of China right now,” said theatre and dance professor Lynette Hunter, who will be presenting in the symposium. “Some of it is very driven.“
The film industry in China has had its ups and downs since China joined the World Trade Organization, Lu said. According to The China Business Review, competition for theatrical release in the country is intense, and independent films and low-budget films have little chance of theatrical release – let alone the United States.
However, Lu said that the domestic and international markets for Chinese films are growing, and after this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing, Lu said that he wanted people to know more about the country.
“[China has] a very vibrant film industry with all kinds of films – art films, commercial films, international blockbusters,” he said. “It’s a very diverse, fledgling film industry. More people are interested in what’s going on [in China], and what’s happening out there is being artistically packaged by filmmakers. There’s a good momentum right now to produce more interesting, challenging films.“
Hunter compared China’s growing film industry to India’s.
“Many people are thinking it’s coming to be the next Bollywood,” she said.
In addition to showcasing films from contemporary China, Lu chose one classic film for the festival – 1934‘s silent black-and-white film Queen of Sports, which he said that he chose in light of the 2008 Beijing games to show modernization through sportsmanship. Gender, modernity and identity are the major issues under discussion during Friday’s symposium.
“Sometimes you see a conflict between tradition and modernity,” Lu said. “China’s a very old country, so how do people compromise the need to modernize? Every Chinese citizen … is caught between different worlds.“
Though this year’s Asia Pacific Film Festival focuses on China, Lu said that anyone could relate to the themes in the movies.
“We live in a globalizing world, and everyone has to shift gears sometime,” he said. “When you want to be modern, you have to give up something from your old self. I think that anybody can relate to this.“
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