The US-China Film Summit: Nov. 2, 2010

October 22, 2010

The US-China Film Summit: Nov. 2 (Tuesday), 2010

Film industry leaders from China and Hollywood – including top executives, government officials, producers, professionals and creatives – will hold a joint summit on the latest trends in US-China co-productions and collaborations. The US-China Film Summit highlights the growing entertainment media opportunities between established Hollywood and rapidly-emerging China.

Hollywood panelists include:
Michael Corrigan, Vice Chairman of Orb Media Group
Elia Infascelli, Co-head of William Morris Endeavor’s International Division
Bill Mechanic, Founder and President of Pandemonium Films and Producer (Coraline)
Rob Minkoff, Director (The Forbidden Kingdom, The Lion King)
Stephen Saltzman, Partner at Loeb and Loeb
James D. Stern, CEO of Endgame Entertainment
Ken Stovitz, Partner at Overbrook Entertainment and Producer (The Karate Kid)
Janet Yang, President of Manifest Film Company and Producer (The Joy Luck Club, Dark Matter)

China panelists include:
Xiaowei Su, Deputy Director or SARFT Script Center & writer of Aftershock
Lifeng Wang, President of Xing Xing Digital Corporation
Tianyun Wang, Vice President of Shanghai Film Group
Zhongjun Wang, Chairman and CEO of Huayi Brothers Media Corporation
Hongtao Yang, President of Ningxia Film Group
Dong Yu, President of Polybona Film Distribution Company, Ltd.
Xun Zhang, President of China Film Co-production Corporation
Zhao Zhang, President of Enlight Media
Tiedong Zhou, President of China Film Promotion International

Topics include:
Accessing financing and distribution
Benefits and requirements for co-producing with China
Case studies of successful co-productions
Navigating international and Chinese audience tastes
New market updates and realities
Strategies for succeeding in a new East-West environment

When and Where:
Writers Guild Theater
135 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Phone: (323) 782-4525
Date and Time: Nov. 2, 2010; 2:00PM – 5:00PM

For details:
Visit Asia Society Official Site

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Review of The Goddess (神女; China, 1934)

October 16, 2010

Review of The Goddess (神女;China, 1934), A Lianhua Film Studio production (silent).

Director: WU Yonggang
Screenwriter: WU Yonggang
Cinematographer: HONG Weilie
Cast: RUAN Lingyu, ZHANG Zhizhi, LI Keng
Running time: 85 MIN.

Reviewed by UCI (Univ. of California, Irvine) Student Kenya Wilkinson

The Goddess (1934), directed by WU Yonggang

Wu Yonggang’s The Goddess tells the poignant story of a struggling, lower class woman in 1930s China who must submit to a life of prostitution and degradation in order to make a living and provide for her son, whom she loves dearly and continually strives to make a better life for. Lead actress Ruan Ling-Yu’s powerful performance of merging the heartrending fate of a woman who must sell her body for profit with the undying love a mother has for her child, along with Yonggang’s artistic cinematic tactics, effectively conveys the leftist message of the time, while also gripping viewers’ emotions. The director’s skillful use of prostitution as a way of highlighting China’s social problems of oppression, along with his simultaneous focus on the consequential victimization of the helpless, ultimately causes viewers to heavily ponder the dramatic issues presented in the film and gain a deeper insight as to the injustice of the time.

The Goddess delivers the leftist sentiments of social inequality and of the need for change within China through focusing on female suffering in 1930s society. One way in which this message is effectively conveyed in the film is through Ling-Yu’s beautiful mastery of the role. Her facial expressions and subtle gestures reveal the inner turmoil the character feels, and ultimately, it is her performance that brings true meaning to the film’s underlying argument. In one scene where Ling-Yu’s character comes home after having worked the streets, we see her quickly tend to her crying baby and, while she warmly cradles him in her arms, look up and stare off to the right in deep contemplation of the unfortunate reality she is being forced to live. She skillfully takes on a deep look of sadness and hopelessness, which tells viewers that, despite her loving heart and hardworking disposition, society has turned their backs and left her in a fallen state. In a later scene when she is forced to confront the street-gambler in her new apartment and is told that he has sold her son for two-hundred dollars, we see Ling-Yu’s facial expression masterfully deliver the message of injustice once again. The anguish and frustration with which her eyes speak magically light up the screen. Despite the lack of dialogue, her performance arouses viewers’ sentiments and conveys a dismal reality. Nodding her head in saddened submission, she looks up at the gambler while holding back tears and acknowledges his control over her. Her subtle movements and heartfelt facial expressions are what successfully relate the message of injustice to viewers.

As the film progresses and her efforts at creating a better life for her son continue to be thwarted by society however, her character grows more confident and her subtle expressions of sadness turn into heated moments of infuriation. Her eyes speak boldly and it is as if we can hear her heart pounding through her angered expression. The final scene in which she is seen storming the streets to get to the gambler’s den in order to re-claim her stolen hard-earned money drives the leftist message of social injustice home. Her distressed hair-style, heavy deep-breathing, and cold look of indignation serve to highlight the idea of female suffering and the overall oppression and mistreatment of the lower class. Ling-Yu’s masterfully crafted performance of sorrow, frustration, anger, and heartache powerfully communicates the filmmaker’s leftist message.

In addition to the outstanding performance by the film’s lead actress, director Wu Yonggang incorporates the cinematic artistry of close-ups, jarring camera angles, and abrupt transitions to convey an overall tone of social injustice. One reason viewers are able to feel the intensity behind Ling-Yu’s expressions and empathize with the message being delivered has a lot to do with the director’s use of close-ups. In one scene, for example, he zooms in the mother’s affectionate smile toward her son and allows viewers to see the humanity and love within the character before cutting to another close-up of the clock on the dresser, which informs the audience that night has fallen and that the mother’s time with her son must be cut short so that she can go and perform her job on the streets. Another important close-up used in the film is seen when Ling-Yu’s character is on the streets waiting for business to come her way. Yonggang de-emphasizes the act of prostitution in this particular scene by focusing in on the character’s feet and merely allowing viewers to see her walking away with a gentleman. Close-ups like these show the filmmaker’s efforts at trying to emphasize the domestic, maternal side of the character and marginalize her street life and acts of prostitution.

Another way in which Yonggang foregrounds the moral authority of the woman and tries to create a boundary between the interior and exterior worlds is by frequently cutting between shots of home life and nighttime cityscapes. He is conveying the message that those lives are not intertwined and that there is a disconnect between the outside world and the life she leads with her child at home—that she has been forced to submit to prostitution to support herself and her child. The message of the fallen state of society, however, is best depicted by the disturbing shot of Ling-Yu’s character and her baby on the floor between the grimy gambler’s legs. This shot is not only cinematically powerful, but it clearly communicates the filmmaker’s leftist message. The woman is on the floor between the man’s legs looking up at him in utter submission, which represents the powerlessness and suffering of the lower class amidst society. The director is effectively saying that while people like this character are on the bottom of society, it is truly society that needs to be reformed—not the victims of injustice.

Ultimately, despite the lack of dialogue and color, Wu Yonggang skillfully crafts a film that leaves a lasting impact on viewers. Between Ling-Yu’s talented performance and Yonggang’s cinematic artistry, The Goddess is a film which beautifully depicts the unfortunate social situation of 1930s China and leaves viewers with tears in their eyes.


Review of The Red Detachment of Women (红色娘子军; China, 1961)

October 12, 2010

Review of The Red Detachment of Women (红色娘子军;China, 1961), A Shanghai Tianma Film Studio production.

Director: XIE Jin
Screenwriter: LIANG Xin
Music: HUANG Zhun
Cinematographer: SHEN Xilin
Art Direction: ZHANG Hanchen
Cast: ZHU Xijuan (as WU Qionghua), WANG Xingang (as HONG Changqing), CHEN Qiang (as Nanbatian)
Running time: 110 MIN.

Reviewed by USC Student Diane Kao

The Red Detachment of Women (1961), directed by XIE Jin

The Red Detachment of Women starts off with a depressing discovery of a slave girl who has had a history of running away countless times and is once again caught, beaten, and tortured in the water prison. Her defiant spirit catches the attention of an apparently wealthy man traveling through her town. The traveler seems to be instant friends with her owner, Nan Batian; however, the audience soon finds out that the wealthy man, named Hong Changqing, is actually a Communist officer in disguise.

The film depicts the transformation of the slave girl, Wu Qionghua, as the spirit and nature of the Communist Revolution taking over China. She is the epitome of the lowest working class with nothing to her name, while her savior from harsh slavery and early death is the Communist officer. Thus, the message that Communism was winning in the war against the repressive old society in all of China is represented by the battle on the island of Hainan, as it is the most Southern end of Chinese territory.

The tone set by the Socialist Realist film is one of violent class struggle and sacrificing one’s own personal agenda and feelings aside for the betterment of the Communist cause. This is shown not only by Qionghua’s “enlightenment” of her mistake in taking a shot at Nan Batian while on a strictly scouting trip, but also through filming techniques and the lack of sexuality permitted. Filming techniques such as music, lighting and color highlight and exaggerate the contrast between the good and evil. In this case, upbeat and encouraging march songs follow the training of the Communist Red Detachment of Women. They always follow beautiful sunrise or day shots of the scenery on Hainan, looking up towards the bright sky through the fronds of the palm trees, thus depicting the hope of a better future that Communism will bring. In the scene where Hong Changqing looks up at the posters and Communist flag on the walls and ceiling, the renewed commitment that those images bring to his moral strength is literally shown with a bright light basking down on his face. In contrast, most of the scenes with Nan Batian are at night, in the confines of his courtyard house. The camera angle also tends to look down upon Nan Batian and his lackeys.

The distinct lack of sexuality represented in the film despite the obvious longings between the two main characters and the oddly emotional devoid marriage of the two Communist lovers further enforce the idea that the Communist cause must come first and above all else. For the protagonist to only share a longingly look with her savior and mentor throughout the entire movie is definitely understating the true emotions that should have been in its place. Even the four silver coins which Hong gave to her at the very beginning were masked by Communist reasons rather than purely an act of kindness. He gives her the coins so that she can buy food along the way in order to reach the Communist camp that he describes to her. Qionghua returns those four coins to him right before the battle on the island breaks out, not for him to remember her by, but to go towards the payment of her first Party membership fees. Later on, after his death, she finds his officer bag with her four coins in it, and instead of being reminded of the loss of an important person in her life, it supposedly reminds her of the Communist cause that result in her rising to the occasion and carrying on the last stages of the battle against the Nationalists and old society.