About this blog
The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Blog posting written by Lucy Yang, Journalism and Politics, '14, FLEFF Blogger, Puyang, Henan, China
This film has won the Best Screenplay Award of Cannes Film Festival 2013 and is on the top of every film critic’s list of the year. Jia Zhangke, the director and screenwriter of the film, is one of the most influential figures of the “Sixth Generation” filmmakers of Chinese cinema.
The film tells four individual stories that are adapted from four real events in China. Jia has done a splendid job transforming these social events and news reports into his screenplay.
An angry miner revolts against the corruption of his village leaders. A migrant worker at home for the New Year discovers the infinite possibilities a firearm can offer. A pretty receptionist at a sauna is pushed to the limit when a rich client assaults her. A young factory worker goes from job to job trying to improve his lot in life. Four people, four different provinces. A reflection on contemporary China: that of an economic giant slowly being eroded by violence.
A Touch of Sin was originally planned to screen in China in November, 2013, but was eventually censored by the state.
Monday, January 27, 2014
Blog posting written by Lucy Yang, Journalism and Politics, ’14, FLEFF blogger, Puyang, Henan, China.
I was born in a relatively small, slowly developing, and quite conservative city in central part of China called Puyang. About three and a half years ago, I came to Ithaca, N.Y., for college all by myself. That was my first time being abroad.
I am so fortunate that my parents have always been very open and they would allow me to try things out and make decisions on my own. My father, from his personal experience with his parents, understands how important it is for me to study something that I am really into rather than being coerced and end up doing things that I don’t enjoy. That’s why I ended up majoring in journalism and politics, although I know my mother would probably be so much more satisfied if I go to medical schools and be a doctor someday.
I grew up dreaming to be a war correspondent. I enjoyed reading creative non-fictions and autobiographies written by journalists. For all these years, in my mind, I guess, being a war correspondent was just something that seemed to be so romantic: traveling around in war zones, talking to people in a different language, fleeing under the rain of bullets and behind the fog of smoke bombs…
I know I was stupid. I know that I was over-romanticizing wars and what journalists actually do. I hear about all those journalists who were killed in warzones: some were as casualties of wars; some were even as political leverages. They fulfilled their roles as journalists with the cost of their lives. They are men and women with great courage, great determinations, and great hearts.
Once I was talking to a mentor of mine about how I don’t think I have the courage as those war correspondents do. He was astonished: “Are you kidding me? You are the bravest person I’ve ever known! You are brave enough to come to this country at such a young age all by yourself!” That was clearly the most encouraging thing I’ve ever heard.
I spent a semester at the University of Hong Kong in the fall of 2012. During my time there, I was lucky enough to be able to learn from some of the best journalists such as former CNN's Senior Asia Correspondent Mike Chinoy and famous non-fiction writer and "China watcher" Qian Gang. It was a great experience for me and I would love to go back there in the future.
I am very excited to be on the blogging team for FLEFF this year. I’ve definitely had some memorable time with FLEFF in the past. The films that FLEFF showcases are eye-opening for me, especially those independent films from China. They have allowed me to look at my home country with a different perspective because most of those films are banned in Mainland China, and, at the same time, they also differ from what's mainstream in the United States. To some extent, It is similar to my experience in Hong Kong, where I was able to examine China from a relatively independent viewpoint.
Friday, April 5, 2013
Blog posting by Kimberly Capehart, Documentary Studies and Production '16, FLEFF Intern, Cherry Hill, New Jersey
I'm sitting in at what is arguably the most exciting FLEFF event: FLEFF Lab Friday!
Directors, producers, distributors, and scholars have been sitting in Park 220 all day long, speaking with students and amongst themselves about a wide variety of topics.
Right now, Yong Ki Jeong (film director, Couples, Once Upon a Time) and translator, Changhee Chun (Cinema, Ithaca College), Peter Miller (film director, AKA Doc Pommus), Carlos Gutierrez (Cinema Tropical), Bo Wang, (director, China Concerto), Kevin Lee, (dGenerate Films), Dominica Dipio (film director and film scholar), and Vanessa Domico (Outcast Films) are sitting together at the front of the room, waiting to share their secrets of the industry and answer questions.
Moderator Steve Gordon (TVR, Ithaca College) has each guest introduce himself or herself by sharing his or her own personal story. Their backgrounds are all extremely different; some guests started in film, others started with Physics degrees, and still others began their careers as activists.
What did they do to end up where they are? What advice do they have to offer to other people looking to pursue similar careers?
Here are some quotes from the conversation:
Kevin Lee: "Whatever you do, do with a real sense of purpose. Don't do anything because you feel trapped or pressured into it."
Vanessa Domico: "I couldn't agree with Kevin more. Do what you're passionate about. This sounds like a cliche, but I really mean it: embrace the moment. You need to keep your eyes open to see all the opportunities."
Peter Miller: "I had many breaks along the way. I basically apprenticed for a very long time with a lot of different people. Now I make my own films, but working with people who have done this for a while, who really know what they're doing, is so important. It's something I really think we have to do to learn how to tell the stories we want to tell."
Kevin Lee: "A lot of students in the past have been really surprised that I had a day job for about ten years that was completely unrelated to film. If you're planning on going to Los Angeles or New York, looking for your big break, don't expect that things will just fall into place. You need to hustle and work hard."
"Pursue your passion any way you can and stay open to different things. Sometimes things just organically crystalize into opportunities that you never expected. Your life and your career are things that happen when you're busy working on other things."
The group discusses the power of social media, with Lee and Dipio referencing the Kony 2012 video as an example of a film that gained support through outlets like YouTube and Facebook.
Yong Ki Jeong:"Social networking allows films to reach larger, international audiences. Korean filmmakers get more support for international works than they do for domestic works."
Discussing activism, and film's ability to introduce activist notions in the minds of viewers, as well as playing off of Jeong's mentioning of Seoul, South Korea, Miller offers: "Go into a co-production with your soul, do something that means a lot to you."
Peter Miller: "It's especially important, since you're young and trying to change the world, to get inside yourself and realize what you're trying to do. Just because you're trying to make money, doesn't mean you should do something. The world needs your talent to make things better."
Vanessa Domico: "Know yourself and know your strengths and weaknesses. It's good to work with collaborators. A lot of the time you're going to have to assemble a team of people to work with who can fill in your gaps."
The panel is open to questions!
Q: Are there any outlets that are especially supportive of independent films?
Peter Miller: "There are some organizations that give money out to independent films, but the budgets are growing smaller and smaller. Sometimes individual people give money. When asking for money, you need to know two things:
1. Learn to write well. Being able to write about and explain your film is as important as your film itself.
2. Have a sample of your film to show."
Carlos Gutierrez: "That's an open issue. Sometimes individual fundraising sites like that take away from a larger discussion of independent distribution and production. I think that we need to come together as a community of independent filmmakers to find more sources of funding."
The conversation continues about various sources of funding and questions about receiving and asking for grants. It opens up to a conversation about the need for a close film community with which to collaborate and on which to depend.
Q: If you have something you're very passionate about, but don't think that anyone would be interested in, do you still make it?
Kevin Lee: "That question is different in regards to Chinese film. In China, a lot of things can get banned or removed from the internet, but a lot of Chinese filmmakers are very persistent. Audience is very important, so filmmakers aren't making films just for themselves, they're making films on social issues that they want other people to see.
Carlos Gutierrez: "Thinking about the audience can be tricky, because you're just projecting your own ideas on how the audience will react. I think it's more about the relevance of the film: social and economical relevance is most important."
Dominica Dipio: "Personally, a lot of the filmmakers in my country are independent and self-motivated, and a lot of things that motivate them are relevant social issues and the potential for change. So when I feel passionately about something, I am the first judge of its relevance. But sometimes it turns out to be what people want to hear and what they would like to reflect on."
Q: Do you think having a graduate education is beneficial or necessary in establishing yourself in a film-related career?
Peter Miller: "If you want to teach, you probably need an advanced degree. Teaching is one way that people subsidize their filmmaking habits."
Kevin Lee: "I'm pursuing a higher degree because I'm based in Chicago, and a lot of the community there is academia-based. That's just me, though. Sometimes you can learn more from collaboration or apprenticeship than you can learn in school."
The conversation ends with the discussion of a need for a film community. Use FLEFF as your opportunity to start establishing YOUR own community of filmmakers, audience members, and professionals!
Friday, April 5, 2013
Blog posting written by Erica Moriarty, Documentary Studies and Production '16, FLEFF Intern, Houston, Texas
Hello FLEFFers! Can't make it to the FLEFF Lab in Park 220? No problem! I'm here live blogging to bring you the highlights!
And due to a last minute change, filmmaker Bo Wang, the first Chinese filmmaker to attend FLEFF, will be doing a presentation this hour.
Bo directed a film called China Concerto at 4PM and 9PM tomorrow at Cinemapolis. dGenerate films brings underground, new generation Chinese cinema out of China. This new generation of films emerged post-Tiananmen with a new, radical spin.
"Set the stage for us and walk us through China," Dr. Patricia Zimmermann began the
Bo described a brief history of China. After Mao died in 1976, the country began to adopt capitalism.
"It's been described as socialism with Chinese characters," said Bo.
After 1989 and the incident at Tiananmen Square, a new movement emerged. It began with the avant-garde movement which was politically driven in the form of personal expression. However, many movies continued to be censored. In the 90s, many artist began making movies and used connections in the western world to distribute the Chinese independent filmmaking.
In August, Bo attended a film festival in Beijing, one of the biggest in China. During this time, there was a significant party shift in Chinese government.
Bo described the interruption by the government: "After a half hour of the festival beginning, the electricity was cut...There was a back and forth resistance from the festival, but eventually, the festival was shut down."
After the festival shut down, the films became even more independent, often being shown in artists' studios or houses. Therefore, Bo's film, China, was never shown in an actual festival.
Although he is very involved in Chinese filmmaking today, Bo did not begin college as a filmmaker. He originally planned to go into the sciences, but he felt that he could connect with people more through art and film.
"Do you worry about censorship at all?" asked a member of the audience.
"I'm not attacking any specific person or authority," answered Bo. "I also did not expect this film to have a public showing in China. I think it should be okay. It should be safe."
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Blog post written by Sarah Lockwood, Cinema & Photography '15, FLEFF Intern, Blairstown, New Jersey
To my right sat a fellow intern and friend, to the left sat my brother.
For the past eight months, my brother has lived and worked in China, this weekend being our first reunion since last July. It seemed only fitting that we should view a film about that very country.
Images of thousand-acre landfills and poverty-stricken citizens fill the screen. A small boy playing with items found in a trash bag, a man building a house among the garbage, ponds completely smothered by waste.
At one point, a middle-aged Chinese woman onscreen describes her life as a 'professional' garbage scavenger - a job her family does not know she holds.
She is cheerful but clearly impoverished, citing an amount of Chinese money and states that she is lucky - lucky - if she makes that much in a month.
From beside me, my brother whispers, "That is forty-five American dollars."