2010 Tudou Video Festival awards: The best of China's online films
It hinted of the Oscars mixed with a little bit of Sundance and Cannes. Except instead of red, the carpet was green. Instead of fancy designer dresses, the attire was a combo of grunge, flannel and faded blue jeans. And instead of airing on television or in movie theaters, the nominated films came straight from the Internet. Welcome to the 3rd annual 2010 Tudou Video Festival, held over the weekend in the Chinese capital.
Tudou.com (which means “couch potato” in Chinese) is China’s first, and now one of the country’s largest (aside from rival Youku.com), video sharing portals. Launched in 2005, Tudou follows a similar model to Google Inc.’s video Web site, YouTube.
Tudou also hosts videos that push the boundaries of sensitivity on the country’s censored Internet. It was the first portal, for example, to show the “War of Internet Addiction,” a 64-minute computer animation film on government Web controls, Tudou co-founder Gary Wang said. The film, produced by a network engineer who goes by the name “Sexy Corn,” won the top award at this year's festival.
“It is a fantastic time,” said Wang, a lanky 37-year-old who returned to Shanghai to start the site after studying and working in America and Europe for a number of years. “Think about how great pieces of work always come out of turmoil or when societies come out of transitions. I think Chinese society is going through a very painful transition period, so we will see who will have the determination to capture the moment.”
Aspiring filmmakers, actresses and actors, animators and amateur videographers from around China (all mostly in their mid- to late-20s) showcased their work at the festival held at an art complex in Beijing, with aorund one thousand people in attendance.
Of the more than 5,000 entries, 94 made it to the final round of nominations.
“Two to three years ago, the works were really amateur,” Wang said. “Now people are taking it much more seriously.”
And now traditional media along with advertisers are starting to take the content on Tudou much more seriously, too. Nokia, Hewlett-Packard, Philips and Converse were among the sponsors of the event. Before the ceremony, investors, film and TV producers and ad agencies listened to Web filmmakers pitch their projects in hopes of finding funds to back their creativity.
“We want to see them survive,” Wang said. “We want to see them make a lot of money.”
A thousand people attended the awards program. Famous guests included Hung Huang, a blogger and media mogul, and Yue Minjun, a contemporary artist. A video of reporter Chai Jing speaking on her experiences working as a journalist in China won the “Golden Camera Award.”
“Hitch-hike Diary” won the documentary category. The film, by a video blogger who goes by the name Tomato-Han Da Ka, is the story of a hiking trip on the border regions of Sichuan province and Tibet.
“People’s creative energy needs to be expressed,” Wang said. “There is no way of choking the creativity. It can’t be stifled.”
Keep reading below to learn about some of the Web filmmakers, their personal stories and their work.
Sexy Corn won’t reveal his real name to anyone, ever: “I only exist on the Internet,” said the 26-year-old network engineer from Hunan province who now lives in Beijing. “The Internet is more real than reality.”
He is the producer of the “War of Internet Addiction,” an animated film shot entirely within the video game, World of Warcraft (it is a filming technique known as machinima, which involves making animated movies using real-time images recorded from video games). The movie won the top award at the Tudou festival.
The film centers on World of Warcraft gamers who are frustrated that a new version of the game was banned in China. However it also contains deeper themes about Internet freedom in the country. It has been viewed millions of times.
Sexy Corn says, for now, making movies is just a hobby. And regarding his new-found fame: “I just wanted to do it for World of Warcraft gamers,” he said. “I expressed by personal opinion about the Chinese Internet and Chinese society and probably a lot of people thought I was right.”"War of Internet Addiction"
Video Link: http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/8w0z0Q_TAQI/
Cai Chen-Shu (Video Blogger Name: Love Vacation)
Cai Chen-Shu grew up in the aboriginal Amei Tribe in Hualian, a county on the east coast of Taiwan. He produced his film, “It Seems to Rain,” for a senior project to obtain his university degree. Cai won best director at the film festival.
“It Seems to Rain” centers on a high school boy and his struggles to accept himself as a homosexual. “I have always wanted to make a movie about same sex relationships and how a teenager becomes comfortable with his own identity,” the 25-year-old said.
Cai said the film received a lot of criticism when it was first posted online in China because “the movie is from Taiwan and those kinds of things.” He now works for a film production company in Taipei. “I don’t consider myself a movie producer at all,” he said. “It was just an assignment.” However Cai says one day he does hope to become a famous director of a disaster film.
“It Seems to Rain”
Video Link: http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/O_GQhEIvCsA/
When Zhou Nan told his parents he wanted to make films, they cried. The 27-year-old from a small village in Inner Mongolia was studying at a science and technology university at the time. “In China, families always think learning art is not best for a clever boy,” he said. “Learning science is the best way for a clever boy to find his place in the world.”
Zhou ended up pursuing his filmmaking dream. He is now studying at the Beijing Film Academy. And his 22-minute film, “Lost in Paradise,” was nominated for best drama at the Tudou awards ceremony. The film is about a driver who loses 10 patients he is taking to a mental institution when he stops to see a prostitute along the way.
Zhou says his next film will center on love between parents and their son in honor of the support his family eventually gave him to pursue his dream. “Crying is not weak,” he said. “”Crying is because we are moved by each other.”
“Lost in Paradise”
Video Link: http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/KTZ6Hz7lVzM/
Pisan is an oil painter, multimedia artist who is the main director of an animation company located in 798, Beijing’s famous arts district. At age 39, he is one of the older film producers to attend the video festival as well as use the Internet as a platform to showcase his work. “Some artists resist,” he said. “I am an exception.”
His short animation clips featuring a character called “Kuang Kuang” have become an Internet sensation, generating millions of clicks and downloads. The animations center on “Kuang Kuang,” a young child growing up in the 1980s, and his relationship with his classmates and his parents. “Kuang Kuang Kuang Blackboard” was nominated for best team work.
Another one of Pisan’s animation called “Bomb the School,” which is about “a little kid who doesn’t want to go to school, so he bombed it,” according to Pisan, was taken off the Web for half a year. Pisan said he was fined by the government for the film. He describes his films as “abstract works that parallel what is going on in reality, constructing another spiritual world parallel to the real world.”“Kuang Kuang Kuang Blackboard”
Video Link: http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/NsGP28mI6FY/
Xie Tian (Video Blogger Name: EMXXT)
“In China, there is a saying that one picture is worth a thousand words,” said Xie Tian, an amateur filmmaker from Sichuan province. “It is a more efficient way of expressing ideas, to capture human emotions.”
Xie, a computer scientist, traveled all the way from Sichuan to Beijing for the film festival. His movies, short film clips about disappearing culture in southern China, were not nominated for any awards. Instead, he says, he just came to try to learn more about producing films. “It is important for humans to capture the essence of culture and keep them on record,” he said.
One of his works features a wood craftsmen who makes sculptures out of tree roots. The craftsmen lives high atop a mountain in Sichuan. Xie said the old man still makes the sculptures with his hands but his son has started to use machines to carve the sculptures. “I don’t care whether or not the film is successful,” he said. “I just want to deliver a message.”
“Woodcraft Folk Artist”
Video Link: http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/kVkwLBdnn54/
He Kai and Tang Tian
Tang Tian cried when she and her co-producer, He Kai, won the Tudou award for the most creative film. “We don’t have any background in filming,” she said.
Tang, 21, and He, 24, first met on the Internet only to learn they attended the same university in Zhejiang province (Tang is a finance major and He, who is now a wedding photographer, was studying design). Both had an interest in filmmaking and collaborated on a movie inspired by the Blair Witch Project. The piece generated millions of clicks on the Web, which inspired the two to continue making movies.
They now collaborate with a team to produce an online series about how to make movies. The episode of the “Ke-en Brother-Sister Movie Show,” for example, explains how to do zombie make-up and create other special effects for horror films. “Maybe one day somebody will think it is interesting and cooperate with us or give us some money to make more videos,” Tang said. “I am not very sure.”
“Ke-en Brother-Sister Movie Show”
Video Link: http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/i6dhEyREpEk/
Best Music Video
Winner: Zhang Yan-Xuan
Title: “ABCD Said”
Details: “ABCD Said” is a music video inspired by mobile ring tones.
Most Popular Video Blogger of the Year
Winner: Seven Color Animation
Title: “I am MT”
Details: “I am MT” is a serialized made-for-Internet animation series featuring cute cartoon characters.
Best College Work
Winner: Bei-nong Animation
Title: “My Mother”
Details: “My Mother” is a story set in a small village in north China centering on a grown man reflecting on his childhood relationship with his mother.
Best Team Work
Winner: Miss Bowl of Rice
Title: "Chicken Flowers Escaping"
Details: The animation depicts the story of a boy and girl escaping a monster attack in a village. Almost all of the villagers are sacrificed, leaving the young boy alone with an uncertain future.
Winner: Shanghai Jiaotong University
Title: "Shanghai Jiaotong Military Marching"
Details: Military marching exercises are an inherent part of the college experience for many students in China. These filmmakers took their marching team, added a bit of creative choreography, and then pressed the record button.