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Going to the movies remains one of life's greatest pleasures, don't you think? |
Even in this age of streaming, there's nothing like sitting in the dark gazing up at the big screen.
All my life, I've hankered after being a film director – not a producer which I'm probably better qualified for – but an actual film director – the person who writes the script, frames the shots, dictates the pacing and oversees the edit – oh! and picks up the awards!
Wow, what a gig that must be?
New York Asian Film Festival
So whenever CGTN offers me the chance to meet a director in real life I'd jump at the chance and this week – at the New York Asian Film Festival at Lincoln Center on Manhattan's Upper West Side – I got to meet two of China's finest young exponents of the art form.
For almost 20 years the NYAFF has been highlighting movies from the region and this year there are more Chinese movies than ever before – 11 in total.
The genres range from coming-of-age movies and screwball comedies to horror and action-drama.
Meet the boss
Samuel Jamier, executive director of the NYAFF, told me one reason why that's the case.
"In general, it's become easier to just make a film, and that's true in China as well, I mean the technical means aren't as expensive as it used to be. You don't need to shoot films on a camera and so on and so forth."
Two Chinese films caught my eye this time round.
'Wushu Orphan' – a Chinese coming of age movie
"Wushu Orphan" was written and directed by Huang Huang, a 2008 graduate of the Beijing Film Academy... who first dipped his toes into the movie world as a young boy in Anhui Province – quite literally!
"Near my home there was a cinema but in the summer (it) would flood and so I used to have to sit on the top of the back of the seat and actually have my feet immersed in water, it was fun!"
Huang's film is the kind of the coming-of-age story of the kind beloved by Hollywood for years. The tale of a boy in an enclosed martial arts school bullied by his classmates because he prefers academic subjects over Kung Fu. In keeping with the bittersweet pangs of growing up – he also has a crush on the school's pretty young doctor.
"I believe that the North American audience probably has different and more laughing points when you have these moments in the film, and I just feel very honored and proud that film has the chance to be shown to the North American audience."
'Push and Shove'
Wu Nan also graduated from the Beijing Film Academy and has worked as a screenwriter with the best of the best in Chinese cinema.
Her directorial debut "Push and Shove" is a slapstick comedy about a cute family dog and Tibetan Mastiff at war with each other.
"The Hollywood film industry has given the Chinese a chance to see what the best films look like... but that's only part of what the Chinese want... They also want to see stories connected to their real lives... but with the Hollywood quality of production."
These two and the nine other Chinese movies come to the New York Asian Film Festival at a time when recent Chinese-based film scripts have taken us from outer space to Chinatown.
"Lucky Grandma" – the story of a cantankerous older woman who stole money from Chinese gangland thugs and lived to tell the tale – was a highlight of this year's prestigious New York Tribeca Film Festival in April.
'The Wandering Earth'
While China's first big international sci-fi blockbuster opened to cccritical acclaim worldwide in February... which is a perfect example of what Wu Nan meant when she talked about Chinese people seeking their own movies but with "the Hollywood quality of production."
NYAFF Executive Director Samuel Jamier says science fiction and crime thrillers are the latest craze for young upcoming Chinese filmmakers who he said are whip-smart and among the most talented in the world today.
"A lot of these people when you meet them – the filmmakers – they've traveled a lot – they're really, really well-read, extremely well educated. You can talk to them for hours about cinema and other subjects in general. It's really striking!"
Once upon a time, films were made for the big screen and the small screen only. But the future is 5G streaming to your cell, and Chinese filmmakers are proving they are ready and able to make compelling content for movie fans to enjoy whatever the platform.