Independent films about the 2020 pandemic

The 2nd Red Bird Student Film Festival
Time: October 1-November 1, 2020
Location: Online

When the 2020 pandemic suspended mainstream filmmaking activities around the world due to social distancing rules, about 15 students from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology were making independent films in different parts of the globe: Wuhan, Kunming, Shijiazhuang, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.

Each student established a one-man’s studio and made a documentary film about the impact of the pandemic. As amateurs, they audaciously engaged in “extreme filmmaking,” that is, filmmaking under extreme conditions: pandemic, no funding, no professional equipment, no teammates. They started shooting in early February and kept tracking the pandemic week by week until June or September. They made 15 films in total, including documentaries, fictional documentaries, animated documentaries, and stop-motion animation. The lengths of their films vary: animated films are around 6-8 minutes and live-action films 10-20 minutes, with the exception of a feature-length documentary about Wuhan lockdown.

These films epitomize the Humanities’ take on the 2020 pandemic. To watch these films and cast your vote for the best three films (deadline: November 1, 2020), please click:

Here is a list of the films:

1. Putting on the Mask (animated documentary, Greenwood Studio, London)
2. Quarantine Toy (stop-motion animation, Pietro Picture, Hong Kong)
3. Peach Blossom Spring (feature-length documentary, Tianyou Studio, Wuhan)
4. 17 Years Later (documentary, Ultramarine Studio, Hong Kong)
5. Distance (documentary, Coriander Studio, Hong Kong)
6. Ah Tsz (documentary, Sapphire Studio, Hong Kong)
7. The Unmasked (fictional documentary, Hollisophy Studio, Hong Kong)
8. Xenios (documentary, Welle Studio, Kunming)
9. Going Home (experimental & documentary & animation, Serendipity Studio, Shijiazhuang)
10. A Letter to Ten Years Later (experimental & documentary, Dokodemo Door Studio, Hong Kong)
11. Exchange (fictional documentary, Hamster Studio, Hong Kong)
12. Stay Home in Seoul (fictional documentary, Mafia Studio, Seoul)
13. Dad’s Sky (documentary, All Love Studio, Hong Kong)
14. The Last Five (fictional documentary, My Vision, Hong Kong)
15. The War (documentary, Moonlight Studio, Guangzhou)

International Jury Members (in alphabetic order by last names):

JIANG Nengjie
Jiang Nengjie is a renowned independent filmmaker, documentarian, and director. He was born in Hunan province in 1985. In 2009 he established his Mianhuasha Film Studio and produced numerous documentary films featuring the countryside in China. In 2010, he made the documentary film The Road, which was nominated for the 7th China Documentary Film Festival. His most well-known film is Children at a Village School (2014), which is about village children left behind by their parents who go to the cities to work as migrant workers. It was awarded “Best Documentary Film” in the 3rd Phoenix Documentary Awards. He produced numerous films since then, including The Ninth Grade (2015), Anti-Japanese War Veteran (2015), Jia Yi (2016), The Sichuan Army Veteran Peng Guochen (2017), Yun Jie (2018), and others. His most recent documentary, Miners, the Horsekeeper and Pneumoconiosis (2019), has been very popular online due to the increasing public attention to health issues after the coronavirus outbreak. He is currently working on Rainbow Cruise, which is a documentary film about the LGBT community in China.

Lei Lei is an internationally renowned animator, filmmaker, and artist. He is especially known as an experimental animation artist with his hands-on video arts, painting, installation, music, and VJ performance. He was born in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province in 1985. He received his master’s degree in animation from Tsinghua University in 2009. In 2010, his film This is LOVE was shown at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and awarded The 2010 Best Narrative Short. In 2013 his film Recycled was the Winner Grand Prix shorts-non-narrative at Holland International Animation Film Festival. In 2014 he was a jury member of Zagreb / Holland International Animation Film Festival and was the winner of 2014 Asian Cultural Council Grant. In 2017 he joined the faculty of CalArts Experimental Animation program. In 2018 he was invited for New Academy Member for the Short Films and Feature Animation branch. In 2019 his first feature film Breathless Animals was selected by Berlinale Forum.

Jie LI
Jie Li is Loeb Associate Professor of the Humanities in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. As a scholar of literary, film, and cultural studies, Jie Li’s research interests center on the mediation of memories in modern China. Her first book, Shanghai HomesPalimpsests of Private Life (Columbia, 2014), excavates a century of memories embedded in two alleyway neighborhoods destined for demolition. Her second monograph, Utopian Ruins: A Memorial Museum of the Mao Era (Duke University Press, 2020), explores contemporary cultural memories of the 1950s to the 1970s through textual, audiovisual, and material artifacts, including police files, photographs, documentary films, and museums. Li has co-edited a volume entitled Red Legacies: Cultural Afterlives of the Communist Revolution (Harvard Asia Center, 2016). Her current book project, Cinematic Guerrillas: Maoist Propaganda as a Spirit Medium explores film exhibition and reception in socialist China, including movie theatres and open-air screenings, projectionists and audiences, as well as memories of revolutionary and foreign films. Her other research projects include a transnational film history of Manchuria and a cultural history of noise in modern China.

Zhen Zhang is Associate Professor in the Department of Cinema Studies at New York University. The main areas of her scholarly interests include Chinese-language film history in its cultural, aesthetic, political, and gendered manifestations, within the broad frameworks of modernity, modernism, and cosmopolitanism. Her first scholarly book, An Amorous History of the Silver Screen: Shanghai Cinema 1896-1937 (2005), articulates a cultural history of early Chinese cinema within the matrix of exuberant metropolitan mass culture in the early decades of the twentieth century. The interest in the dynamic relationship between the cinema and the city is also evident in the volume she edited, The Urban Generation: Chinese Cinema and Society at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century (2007). She has also been following and working on and with emerging independent film communities in China, especially in the advent of digital media. This long-term engagement has resulted in DV-made China: Digital Subjects and Social Transformations after Independent Film (co-edited with Angela Zito) published in 2015. Her ongoing projects include a volume on women directors of contemporary Chinese-language cinema and another book on the orphan imagination in transnational Chinese film history.

Ying ZHU
Ying Zhu is a Professor of Cinema Studies at the City University of New York and Director of the Center for Film and Moving Image Research at the Academy of Film, School of Communication, Hong Kong Baptist University. She has published ten books, including Soft Power with Chinese Characteristics: China’s Campaign for Hearts and Minds (2020) and Two Billion Eyes: The Story of China Central Television (2013). A leading scholar on Chinese cinema and media studies, her writings have appeared in major academic journals, books, and publications such as The Atlantic, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, etc. She has given talks and keynote speeches at leading universities, media institutions, and think tanks around the globe. Her works have been translated into Chinese, Dutch, French, Italian, and Spanish. She reviews manuscripts for major publications in the U.S. and the U.K. and evaluates research proposals for research foundations in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, the U.K., and the U.S. Zhu is the recipient of a US National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (2006), an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship (2008), and a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship (2017). She is currently working on a manuscript on Sino-Hollywood relation.

Division of Humanities, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Library, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Creative Media Zone, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
School of Design, East China Normal University, Shanghai

1 Oct 2020 (Thursday) – 1 Nov 2020 (Sunday)
Films epitomize the Humanities’ take on the 2020 pandemic. To watch these films and cast your vote for the best three films (deadline: November 1, 2020)

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