UK-CHINA FILM COLLAB (UCFC) IS PRESENTING ‘ODYSSEY’ –
THE BIGGEST CHINESE FILM FESTIVAL OF THE YEAR IN THE UK FROM 10th MAY TO 10th JUNE 2022
‘Odyssey: a Chinese cinema season’ is launching in the UK this May. Collaborating with Picturehouse Cinemas, The Prince Charles Cinemas (in-person) and Shift 72 (online), the festival will create a hybrid experience to reach as many attendees as possible across the UK and worldwide.
Named after one of the most significant works of the Western canon, ‘Odyssey’ aims to offer an exciting and mysterious journey through the contemporary Sino-cinematic world. Odyssey strives to empower the shared appreciation of cinema, drive inclusiveness in the film industry, and facilitate cross-cultural communication. The festival will not only introduce the latest young Chinese film talents to the UK audience, but also host panels with industry experts, scholars, and filmmakers to boost creativity and exchange ideas.
The curation of Odyssey revolves around diverse themes and genres. The screenings range from short films and features to new moving images by contemporary Chinese artists. Demonstrating a pioneering and artistic spirit, short film programmes like ‘Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro’ attempt to break the boundaries between narrative and aesthetics and reimagine cinematography and visual art dimensions. In the feature film section, topics like ‘Women Through Lens‘ and ‘Chinese Regional Cinema’ showcase the dynamics of Chinese society, culture, and aesthetics. All screenings will include a series of Q&As prepared by the curation team and special guests including filmmakers, academics, curators, and critics.
Industry-focused panels were the festival’s highlight last year, which have attracted over 500 participants. Now in its second year, rebranded, Odyssey has prepared another 10 new industry topics. From global sustainability to new business models, from co-production to distribution, from regional cinemas to female film programmers, all subjects are the leading visions and will help explore film-related collaborations between the UK and Greater China.
The opening film screening event will be hosted in person by the Picturehouse Cinemas in London and Edinburgh on 10th May with a reception. The festival programme will bring about a whole month of Chinese cinema from 10th May to 10th June 2022, with more than 60 films in 8 curated sections, 10 panel discussions, and Q&A sessions. Outstanding, innovative, and inspiring, these films promise to add some sparkle to 2022. Most of the programme will be available online for all audiences across the country, and several pop-up special cinema screenings will come up throughout the festival. The online festival platform of Odyssey will be powered by Shift 72, a leading streaming technology that has been used by renowned international festivals such as Cannes and Toronto.
FESTIVAL FILM PROGRAMME OVERVIEW
Opening Film (Offline Screening)
Hard Love (2021) UK Premiere
The opening film Hard Love centres on the wave of single girls. It discusses social hotspots like love, marriage, family, work, and childbirth, which today’s youth are most concerned about. Spanning eight cities, including Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, San Francisco, and Phu Quoc Island, this documentary offers a group portrait of Chinese single women within a delicately-designed 97 minutes. Modern single women are also a heated topic for young people in the UK. Based on this mutual concern, this opening film shall go beyond the national boundary and bring audiences together.
Date and Time: 10 May 2022 | Tuesday 19:30 pm BST
Location: Picturehouse Fulham, 142 Fulham Rd., London SW10 9QR
Pop-up Special Cinemas (Offline Screening)
Lan Yu (2001) 4K Restoration
A classic that has come through decades of critics, Lan Yu is one of the best gay films that China has ever produced. The film is not driven by homosexuality; it is a story about love. Its storytelling captures the arc of two souls and the vicissitudes of Beijing over a decade. This 20th anniversary 4K restoration version brings its 90s tonality to life to the fullest.
Date and Time: 12 May 2022 | Thursday 18:30 pm BST
Location: The Prince Charles Cinema, 7 Leicester Pl, London WC2H 7BY
River of Salvation (2020) UK Premiere
FIRST’s favourite, River of Salvation, unfolds a down-to-earth portrait of life in a small town in southern China. With a meticulous narrative structure and its ‘last six minutes reversal,’ the script draws enormous emotional power from the deeply buried history of millions of ordinary women and their everyday struggles.
Date and Time: 17 May 2022 | Tuesday 19:30 pm BST
Location: Pictureshouse Finsbury Park, Unit 1 Cinema LS, 17 City N Pl, London N4 3FU
Short Films (Online Screening)
Neo Horizon: The festival has curated this screening and award category called “Neo Horizon: The Audience Award”. Our audience will have the opportunity to review and select films which will be nominated for this award. The curation team of Odyssey have selected six outstanding short films from all 123 submissions for this award. These refreshing and reflective films explore a vast range of critical issues facing our society today, and transport viewers explore the unique relationship between place, city and an individual in a mysterious cinematic world.
An Exploration: This section consists of 29 award winning short films, highlights the different genres, themes, and aesthetics of 21st-century Chinese cinema, ranging from atmospheric shorts to incisive documentaries. This section begins with a slice of contemporary Chinese sci-fi before delving into musical productions, inventive animations, and comedy-dramas about cross-cultural misunderstandings. The section features a schoolgirl with a genius IQ, a drummer who finds inspiration in an ancient bathhouse, and a hard of hearing boy desperate to pursue his dancing dreams. The directors deftly tackle serious social issues, including sex trafficking and the SARS outbreak, alongside subtle character studies.
The Galaxy: Artists’ Moving Image: This is a must-watch experimental film programme spotlighting innovations in the moving image. Breaking the boundaries between film text and art creation, these films roam in their own artistic galaxy – and are all at the cutting edge of Chinese experimental cinema. The abstract concepts that drive “The Galaxy” are no less exciting, as the creators channel questions of cognition and perception through images of war, blindness, and light itself. These selected moving images represent the thrilling point at which film and visual art meet, creating a ground-breaking medium for authorial expression.
Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro: This retrospective programme is in its second edition, supported by Shanghai Animation Film Studio. This section will be screened online from the 20th to the 26th of May. By looking back at classic Chinese animations such as Little Carp Jumps Over the Dragon Gate and The Little Stream from the 1960s, Nine-Colored Deer and The Deer’s Bell from the 1980s no in 2K restoration, this section offers UK audiences the opportunity to enjoy animated films of different eras and art styles while learning about the history of Chinese animation.
Feature Films (Online Screening)
The Emerging Waves: This section pays special attention to the new generation’s independent, arthouse, and documentary productions. From the 12th of May to the 19th of May, six innovative and inspiring films will be shown in this section in offline and online formats. Lan Yu (4K Restoration) which is one of the best gay films that China has ever produced, will be shown on the 12th of May at The Princes Charles Cinema. Another award-winning title River of Salvation will be screening on the 17th of May at Finsbury Park Picturehouse. Apart from these special offline screenings, four additional films will be shown online via Shift 72 from the 13th of May. Being Mortal reproduces the bitterness of life by depicting an Alzheimer’s patient’s family. The Fourth Wall creatively uses the parallel universe as a narrative technique to discuss how to reconcile with family, society, and ourselves. Black Tide Coast follows a poetic style, aiming to depict abstract emotions, ideas, and feelings beyond the control of the images. The Ark utilises documentary images to record the complicated relationship between individuals and society, science and religion.
Women Through Lens: This section focuses on women’s life experiences, which will be screened online from the 27th of May to the 2nd of June. This section currently consists of seven films, Wind exposes the plight of single mothers and daughters from ethnic minorities in a patriarchal society; Love Conquers All shows an ambivalent intimate relationship that can conquer as well destroy everything; Spring Tide portrays a mother-daughter relationship of two generations in which both warmth and confrontation are intertwined; One Summer through the eyes of the protagonist to reflect many social issues arising in China today, including marriage, education, urban development and the political system; and finally, Chang’E draws on the classical Chinese myth of “Chang’e running to the moon” to create an ironic and compassionate mirror metaphor between the unearthly fairy and the exhausted 55-year-old factory worker. Only You Alone takes us on a journey through the struggles of a young girl with epilepsy trying to realize her dream of dancing. We are also honoured to have Xie Fei’s Girl from Hunan with us, which is a pioneering work from the 1980s that reflects on and criticises the tragic situation of women trapped in feudal traditional marriage.
Chinese Regional Cinema: This section explores the diversity of Chinese regional cultures. From the 3rd of June to the 9th of June, by showing four carefully chosen films, this programme looks beyond Beijing and Shanghai to feature a diverse range of China’s regional filmmakers, breaking the supercity dominated stereotypes of Chinese cinema. Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains and Drifted in Life calmly display ordinary families’ incidents within the development of city and society in Southeast China. Wisdom Tooth reveals the story of a brother and a sister, situating an ambiguous, romantic, and heartbreaking relationship in the snowy Northeast region of China. Great Happiness takes viewers to the Northwest of China to experience both happiness and challenges three young adults need to face in the fast-developing city.
Surprise Film: A feature-length animated film The Legend of Sealed Book (4K Restoration) has been selected to be screened in our “Surprise Film” section, which will be released on the 1st of June online as a celebration and special tribute to the International Children’s Day at Odyssey.
ON UK-CHINA FILM COLLABORATIONS
Panel 1: TwinFlame: The Reception of British Cinema Among a Chinese Audience
How are UK films received by the Chinese audience? There is generally a lack of transparent data available. To fill in this gap of public knowledge, the UK-China Film Collab has been conducting a communication campaign #ukfilmsinChina across our various social media platforms. Lily Collinson and Leo Dong will speak at this panel discussing the reception of British cinema from a Chinese audience by analysing data gathered from Chinese platforms such as Douban. The panel will utilise reviews from Chinese viewers of recent British films such as ‘1917’ and ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ and analyse their relative success or failure in China. The speakers will look to the future of UK films in China and how the reception of such films can be improved to reinforce our connection, through our mutual appreciation of cinema.
Panel 2: Virtual Production & Potential Impact on Film Co-production
Across the global film industry, the development of film technology in the field of virtual production is revolutionising the production process from preview to release. Examples include such as The Lord of the Rings to the hit series The Mandalorian in recent years. The innovations of film technology, on one hand, bring audiences an extraordinary visual experience, but on the other hand, they also impact pre-production, shooting and post-production to varying degrees, especially in Sino-British co-productions. How the production teams of the two countries can unify technical standards during production becomes a key factor in the success of the collaboration. At the same time, in this post-epidemic era, what problems can virtual production solve? How rapidly is Virtual Production expected to get into wide-scale adoption？What problems are encountered in Sino-British virtual production? How can we overcome these problems? These are the questions that need to be urgently addressed.
The panel will discuss the emerging filmmaking workflow of virtual production, and its technical and creative aspects, in the context of a British-Chinese co-production. We have invited four industry guests, they are: Han Xiaoling (film producer), Jia Guanglei (DNEG (London) VP), Li Ningti (Base (Beijing) VP) and Zhao Jianjun (Associate Professor of Film and Television Technology Department of Beijing Film Academy). Combining multiple backgrounds, multi-angle and in-depth analysis of the application of virtual production in co-production films, this forum will provide some practical guidance and different perspectives on the application scenarios and impacts of virtual production in co-productions.
Panel 3: Women’s Practice in the Contemporary Chinese Film Industry: Female Film Programmers on the Rise
Film programming is a form of knowledge production. Whether the programmer is a part of an institution or independent, their job is never merely to choose “the best films” for their audience simply based on the film’s artistic merit. Their understandings of the world, cultural identities and political perspectives are always embodied in the film programmes they compile and therefore unwittingly influence the perceptions of their audience. Then, for a female film programmer, what role does her gender identity play in the programming practice?
With the growth of many newly established film festivals in China in recent years, more and more female programmers began to appear in the spotlight and take over positions of power. This led us to wonder what impact does the rise of female programmers have on the contemporary Chinese film industry? With such curiosities, we organised this discussion panel to focus on the rise of female film programmers in the contemporary Chinese film industry. This panel brings together four institutional and independent film programmers from different film festivals in China, to reflect on what changes their emergence has brought to this traditionally male-dominated field, as well as what challenges and dilemmas they encountered through their practice.
Panel 4: Potentials and Obstacles for British Cinema Showcase in China
Foreign countries’ film exhibitions have been practiced in cinemas in China for years, and there is a sophisticated model of organising non-Chinese films season led by arthouse cinema chains or film distribution associations. Showcases regarding French, Italian, and German films were regularly screened annually in China in the past few years. In the last several years, Chinese audiences also enjoyed large-scale Spanish film seasons, Finnish film exhibitions, Japanese film seasons, and even Brazilian film seasons in the cinemas. The organisational chain of foreign cinema showcases, together with audience groups have been well-developed by this special form of film screening, which gives foreign films that haven’t been officially screened or distributed in China another opportunity to meet today’s Chinese audience.
The showcase of British films, however, compared with its’ fellow ‘western non-Hollywood cinemas’, are rarely screened in China. We can draw the conclusion that there hasn’t been a cross-city British film exhibition in China. This panel tries to analyse the rarity of British film exhibitions in China and disclose the underlying reasons by answering the following questions. How does a foreign country’s film exhibition happen; do British films have the potential, what kind of British film exhibition would be expected by Chinese audiences; what are the obstacles when organising a foreign film exhibition, what would be the most probable barrier if we organise a British cinema showcase?
Panel 5: Chinese Regional Cinemas
This panel discussion will focus on mainland Chinese regional cinema from the past to present. We aim to expand the scope of Chinese cinema discussions by not relying on big cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing. Instead, this panel discussion will remind audiences of the diversity of Chinese cinema by tracing the history and development of different regional expressions in cinema. For example, we will touch upon multiple waves that are emerged in contemporary Chinese cinema with strong regional elements, from Northeast to Southern new waves. Furthermore, we will explore whether these waves can be seen as different directors’ identify with their hometowns. How do we interpret regional expressions? What constitutes the locality of mainland Chinese cinema, from local dialects, sceneries, memories, and unique cultures? Dr. Zhaoyu Zhu will conduct a presentation following a discussion between Zhaoyu and this panel discussion’s chair Jiakai Nie. With the audience having the ability to ask questions.
Panel 6: Global Sustainability as a Storytelling Strategy for Non-Hollywood Films
This panel will feature experts from the UK, Finland and China to discuss the importance of global sustainability as a storytelling strategy for the non-Hollywood international films. Environmental sustainability is a topic of global relevance, and one for which international action is needed in order to succeed. This panel will explore the impact that films have in making a social impact and attracting people’s sensibility towards this matter. Moreover, it will highlight the potential of this subject matter in transforming national, culturally bound, or personal stories into international and global ones, as was the case with My Octopus Teacher (2020).
The panel will present different approaches to the theme of sustainability in films, including animation, documentary, short films and comedies, and explore opportunities for the Chinese film industry to dig deeper into this topic for a better distribution of their films worldwide. The discussion will be followed by a live Q&A session where the audience will have a chance to ask their questions.
Panel 7: Future Development of Chinese Animation Industry and International Collaboration
The animation sector in China has been booming for a while, followed by the success of Ne Zha (2019), which grossed over £300 million at the box-office in its domestic market alone. Animation studios around the world are curious about this rising market and have been exploring ways to engage with it. Recent examples of international collaborations include Wish Dragon (2021) and Over the Moon (2021). Both films have gained a relatively good reputation worldwide although did not perform well at the Chinese box-office. On the contrary, Ne Zha did not travel far apart from its domestic success, why is this the case? Animation is considered the most accessible genre for a family-oriented audience. What are the potentials for Chinese animation and its international development? What kinds of stories are worth telling and what aesthetics are the best for an international audience to consume? This panel aims to explore the current and future state of Chinese animation in the international landscape.
Panel 8: An Investigation into Current Press Coverages of Chinese-language Films in the UK
The presence of Chinese cinema is increasing in the west, but how often is it even mentioned in British journalism? The Chinese box office is hot on the heels of America’s, and it will likely become the largest and most successful very soon. Journalism plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between a film and its audience, so if the ever-expanding world of Chinese films is unrepresented in journalism, how can it find an audience in the West? Martha’s research has been primarily based around collecting data to support her hypothesis that Chinese cinema is largely overlooked by British journalism. In this panel, Martha hopes to share her findings so far and start a discussion about the role of journalism in the world of cinema and international relations.
Panel 9: New Business Ideas and Models for UK-China Film Collaborations
This panel will introduce the latest AHRC funded project led by Dr Xiaosong Yang. The “UK-China Research and Innovation Collaboration in Cloud-based Virtual Film Production (UCCVP)” project aims to explore and investigate the status of cloud-based virtual film production in both the UK and China, identifying the key challenges of cross-country remote coordination and developing future strategic plans for UK-China collaborations in the film industry. The project will deliver a thorough market research report to inform and guide research institutes in the UK for future investment in working with China, and build a collaborative network in research and innovation, including beneficiaries in both academic and industrial communities from the two countries.
Panel 10: New Distribution Strategies for Chinese Films in the UK
The appearance of China as a modern nation has shaped the concurrent emergence of new cinematic styles. However, with all of that excitement, the visibility of Chinese films is still limited in the UK since the UK audience may only recall older generations of Chinese filmmakers like Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern) and Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine). Chinese language films rarely appear anywhere other than at film festivals, art-house cinemas, or digitally on demand. Therefore, the fluidity of foreign film distribution has complicated our understanding of international film culture, distribution, and exhibition of modern Chinese films across the UK. Innovative distribution methods might be the key to success, as it determines who gets to watch films, under what circumstances, and where.
Through this panel, we aim to have an open debate with industry specialists from film distributors to academics in the UK specialising in Chinese cinema and international distribution. Distribution strategies, translation, and UK-China film collaborations like co-productions could be referenced, along with discussions about the importance and impact of Chinese film releases on the UK audience.
* The detailed guest speakers list, schedule and registration links will be released soon.
COMMITTEE MEMBERS 2022
Head of Film Festival: Jiakai Nie (Franklin)
Jiakai has been appointed as the Head of Odyssey: a Chinese cinema season this year. He also serves as the Research Specialist for Chinese Regional Cinema at UK-China Film Collab. Jiakai is currently a postgraduate student in Film Studies at the University College London. His recent work has been published by Senses of Cinema, a prestigious online film journal.
Lead Film Curator: Yixiang Lin (Sherlly)
Sherlly is an independent curator, an international film distributor, founder of Unicorn Screening, selected to UCFC’s Future Talent Programme 2021-2022 and responsible for the film curation of Odyssey this year. She is currently studying MSc in Film, Exhibition and Curation at the University of Edinburgh, with a focus on female representation and cross-cultural encounters.
Lead of Operations: Zhilin Wang (Lynn)
Zhilin serves as the Lead of Operations at Odyssey. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Creative Enterprise Film at the University of Reading. Prior to joining UCFC, she worked at multiple TV studios, and was responsible for planning and executing programmes. Her preferred genre of film is realism.
Lead of Public Relations: Liao Zhang
Liao is a PhD researcher in Film Studies at the University of Nottingham, specialising in Chinese girlhood cinema and (post)feminist theory. In addition to her role as the Lead of Public Relations at Odyssey, she also serves as the Lead Women’s Film Programme Curator at UK-China Film Collab, Training Officer at the MeCCSA PGN and Editor for Stanford Social Innovation Review, China.
Lead of Marketing: Shanshan Wu
Shanshan holds a B.A. and M.A. in both Film Studies and Filmmaking from the University of Sydney. She has worked for independent film agencies as a writer, director, and producer for commercials, promos, and short films. Her personal works include experimental film and video installations, which have been shown in group exhibitions, including “Decinema”, “Time Lost” and “Empty”.
Lead Designer: Yun Luo (Wayne)
Yun Luo is the Lead Designer for Odyssey this year. He is currently studying Global Arts Management BA at De Montfort University. He studied design for many years in China and has expertise in both graphic and environmental design. Yun has also worked for a leading design institution in China and has many award-winning works to his credit.
45+ co-workers are helping behind the scenes and they will be introduced later throughout the festival across different channels.
UK-China Film Collab
Azad Ayub Limited