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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Liuqing Yang at 2:08AM
Wenhua Shi, installation artist, filmmaker, Assistant Professor of Art and Digital Art at Colgate University

Blog post written by Lucy Yang, Journalism and Politics ’14, FLEFF Blogger, Puyang, Henan, China

The story of how Professor Wenhua Shi became a filmmaker is a story of dissonance itself.

Shi graduated from Tongji Medical University in Wuhan, China in 1995. But he didn’t want to follow his father and his older brother to become a doctor.

I recently Skyped with Professor Shi. He is an installation artist, a filmmaker, and currently an Assistant Professor of Art and Digital Art at Colgate University. We had a an-hour-long, casual conversation in Chinese and I was truly impressed and inspired by his experience.

Shi had developed a strong interest in music and film when he was in college. He was one of those whom people would call “wen yi qing nian”, which literally means literal, artsy youth.

Wuhan is a major city in central part of China. Tongji Medical University is located only 1 mile away from the provincial broadcast radio station. When Shi was still a college student in the early 90s, he had the opportunity to partake in music radio programs at the radio station and started to think of it as an option for career.

Later on, he had more opportunities to get involved with the then vigorously growing Chinese rock and folk music scene. He wrote a reference book on folk music, Folk Song Field, with Li Wan, an eminent music critic and newspaper editor in Wuhan.

In 1997, Shi started to organize public film-screening events in a small, private videotape-screening cafe in Wuhan together with a few friends. He wrote a list of hundreds of French New Wave films, Italian Neorealism films, etc. to a Taiwanese classmate to have him bringing videotapes of those films back to Wuhan.  

“To us, those foreign films were very aspiring, because those filmmakers didn’t have much resources but were able to make good films with resources that were even worse than what we had back then,” Shi said.

One thing he said that inspired me the most is that, even though their information and resources are limited back in the 90s, he and his friends tried to utilize them all. With very limited access to the Internet, they were exhilarated and tried their best to get to know the outside world. It was then he was introduced to different kinds of experimental arts and artists, such as sound artist Dajuin Yao, who produced the soundtrack for Descending a Staircase, Shi’s short film that was screened at last year’s FLEFF.  

Shi came to the United States wanting to study to be a filmmaker. He graduated from University of Colorado, Boulder, in film studies in 2005. Over the years, he has developed his interests in new media and expanded cinema.

Professor Wenhua Shi will present a 6-minute short chapter from his installation video project, Palimpsest, as part of the Upstate Filmmakers Showcase on Sunday at 7:00 p.m. He will also moderate the screening of two Chinese films together with Kevin Lee from dGenerate Films on Saturday at 7:20 p.m. 

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