September 3, 2008

La cinematheque quebecoise
is screening recent Chinese animated shorts on Thursday, September 4th.

Marcel Jean is the guest programmer. I've provided a loose English translation of what he wrote on the CQ website.

Faced with feeding it numerous television stations, China has recently become, on a quantitative scale, one of the most important producers of animation in the world. Seeking to limit imported productions from Japan and Korea, Chinese officials are basically encouraging local production by creating high production quotas and encouraging the creation of major schools, equipped with cutting-edge technology, which trains thousands of animators on a yearly basis.

In comparison to this rapid development, auteur animation film are still marginalized. As a result, the Chinese presence in large-scale international animation festivals (Annecy, Zagreb, Ottawa, Hiroshima, etc.) remains weak and, seemingly, purely diplomatic. In Annecy, this summer, for example, just one Chinese film was featured in the short competition and it was... a commercial. At this point the festival organizers can claim to have presented a Chinese film...

This situation is explained by the abscence of a framework that is able to support auteur animation in China. Cette situation s’explique par l’absence de structures permettant de soutenir le cinéma d’animation d’auteur en Chine. The free market economy is effectively, the fundamental motivator governing every production, and there is no place for pure research in a cinema where creation is driven solely by a specific demand. If there is no specific demand, nothing is offered.

The sole exception to this: the schools. In this economic context, schools remain the only space where production is not totally regulated by an imperative for economic growth. Not all schools: some essentially train technicians destines to increase the industry ranks, but there are some privileged spaces where creativity has a real place: Beijing Academy, Chinese Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou, Nanjing Institue of the Arts, are examples.

The program of recent animated films I have devised reflect this reality. Most of the films were directed by students, others by instructors. Pan Tian Shou, for example, is the work of Joe Chang, a Canadian national that used to live in Vancouver, who now oversees animated cinema at the academy in Hangzhou. Inspired by a famous painter, Pan Tian Shou is representative of a strong undercurrent of films inspired by traditional Chinese paintaings. Two other films — Season and Butterfly et White Snake — also belong to this prolific body of films. At the same time, I tried to limit the films of this genre to provide a good amount of space to atypical films that offered a closer look at the realm of possibilities in today's Chinese schools. Save, by Anli Liu, and Tree, by Jie Lin, which include an ecoloical message that is undoubtedly stunning. Directed in 2002, Daily Diary, by Han Bo, is reminiscent of Flux, by Chris Hinton, also directed in 2002 at the NFB. Directed in 2007, The Emerald Jar, by Xi Chen, evokes that yle of Russian Igor Kovalyov. Fantasia festival fans will delight at She is Automatic, the ingenious Star Wars puppet animation parody with music from the Chinese rock group, New Pants.

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