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Shanghai Film Festival Team Comes to Ngee Ann Polytechnic

Sammon Zhang and the SIFF panel answer a student’s question about the festival’s film screenings. CREDITS: SG NEWWAVE
Sammon Zhang and the SIFF panel answer a student’s question about the festival’s film screenings. CREDITS: SG NEWWAVE

By Cheyenne Lim

In a collaboration with SG New Wave, the Film & Media Studies film-appreciation CCA, Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF) screened two of their award-winning short films on Dec 5 as part of the SIFF World Express University Tours.

The first film screened was White Sheep in the Car, the winner of the 2018 SIFF Best Live Action Short. In the film, a man who is buried alive by his creditor is saved by a shepherd, and the two travel out of the desert together.

The second film and winner of the 2019 SIFF Best Live Action Short, entitled Huixian, followed the story of a young Chinese woman looking after her elderly father with Alzheimer’s, while looking to immigrate to South Korea.

Founded in 1993, SIFF is one of 15 competitive film festivals in the world, and the largest in China. Its primary goal is “to tell Chinese and Asian stories in an international language”. As part of this goal, the programme is brought to universities and film schools internationally to introduce students to SIFF and its programmes for students.

“The film industry in Asia is booming. Hollywood isn’t the only option anymore as audiences now enjoy domestic productions just as much. As such, SIFF has the duty and obligation to feature more Asian films, and the best place to start is with the students,” said Sammon Zhang, 34, manager of SIFF’s Short Film Department, during the talk and Q&A session with SIFF panelists.

Li Jialing, 24, a Film, Sound and Video student, said of the screening: “It was a confidence boost to me as an aspiring filmmaker. The two films had sweet and simple storylines, but what made them special was how the filmmakers plot it and put thought into every shot and scene.”

He added: “As someone who wants to be in this industry, it showed me that making simple, but good quality films can be done.”

Students were encouraged to submit their films to the Asian New Talent section of the festival, created to introduce new filmmakers to the industry and recognise young talents. First launched in 2004, films from this category must be created by Asian filmmakers and must also be from the first two professional works of the filmmaker.

Deputy General Manager of SIFF Wang Ye, 36, said: “The first two films that a creator makes are the most full of heart and passion, it’s what gets one interested in film as a career in the first place. The stories that young filmmakers can tell give us a different perspective and it’s a great way to get a headstart in the industry if the film is selected for a screening.”

Besides the Asian New Talent category, the SIFF panel also introduced students to their festival framework, where different categories ensure no barriers to entry for any filmmaker, whether he is a student or a seasoned professional. Students can participate in SIFF Next workshops that teach the basics of filmmaking, and then move onto SIFF Project, where shortlisted teams are partnered with experienced filmmakers in a mentorship  programme.

Many students found the event a good opportunity to network with industry professionals.

Chow Kah Meng, 18, from the Chinese Media and Communication course, said: “As I’m interested to go to Shanghai or other parts of China for my upcoming internship, this event was a great opportunity to learn about Shanghai’s media culture as well as connect with people in the industry directly.”

Another student from Chinese Media and Communication, Fernanda Ng, 18, said: “I aspire to be a director, but there’s little platform for me to explore in my course. So the information from the panel where they shared industry trends and tips for future filmmakers was very useful. These are the kind of insights you can’t get anywhere else.”

The SIFF team and student attendees from Film, Sound & Video and Chinese Media & Communication pose for a group photo together. CREDITS: SG NEWWAVE

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