On Saturday 7th of July we attended the 10th Shanghai Short Film Contest at Xinguang cinema, an event hosted by Meiwenti productions. First was the screening of eight short films, which was followed by the award ceremony, featuring a special prize for public choice.
The theme of the evening was “femme fatale” and the flyer boldly promised the "naughtiest event of the summer." Our expectations were high: we wanted to see crazy dresses and impossibly plush seating in a swanky setting.
In fact, we arrived at a fairly basic cinema; the women in the audience were wearing nice dresses but we wouldn’t deem their attire particularly “femme fatale," at least not quite like the femme fatales we were hoping for.
Organizer Juan from Meiwenti productions
Juan, from Meiwenti productions, shared their simple philosophy: “everyone can make a movie." In keeping with this, the contest is open to anybody. “We advertise in magazines and on some websites. This year the theme was “femme fatale”, because we thought it was fun! Filmmakers also had to put humour in their stories. We wanted a scene with a sexy topless man and a kiss scene too for instance…”
Another requirement was that the filmmakers had to find their own music (for copyright reasons and also to encourage them to work with local bands).
“We usually get around 20 entries and a lot of people give up because they need to do the movie just for the contest and they only have one month!”
The contest is not intended to be to large scale, Juan told us. “It would be a full time job to find more sponsors” he confessed. “It’s a nonprofit activity. We do that just for fun!”
And the movies themselves? The audience certainly seemed to enjoy them, especially when it came to the “sexy topless man scene”…
The quality of the films was uneven, yet the high level of effort was consistent; each team clearly wanted to do something funny and original. The local bands' music featured prominently in most of the movies- this had obviously been an important part of the creative process.
Surprisingly, there was only one film in Chinese, a cute teenage love story: “Silly dog." Despite this, Juan told us that film teams are always culturally mixed.
After having seen all the different short films we, the public, voted for our favourite...
The ceremony begins...
The best actor was James Freeman in “Just Love”. The award for best actress went to Arlene Fiddes in “Fannie”.
For best movies, the third prize went to “Nightlife”, by Luyben Kiurkchiev (from Bulgaria), a bloody story. The second went to “La femme en noire”, a brilliant feminist ode by Jumé Irmscher, from South Africa. Finally, the first price went to “Just love”, by Vivienne Wei, from China.
The winner appeared genuinely touched. She thanked her team, her friends and family in the manner of an Oscar winner, making the audience smile. When Vivienne Wei first met Juan, she had no previous experience in cinema. He told her, “you’ll see, making movies is easy!”
Vivienne Wei: the best filmmaker
“Find a passion and do it!” She advised the audience.
Juan is not worried about the future career of his protégé: “Vivienne, this year’s winner, arrived without knowing anything and I’m sure she will have a great career now! One of our previous winners – she’s here tonight- is now a director’s assistant: they all managed to do something after winning their prizes. It’s the first step. I began this way myself, and I am now a producer!”
Finally, the result of the public’s choice award was announced. The winner was Russian director Pika Bauer, for “Dangerous encounters." A humorous story about a girl - played by the filmmaker herself - who wants to find a rich husband and ends up becoming pregnant by Manolo, played by Juan, her husband in real life.
“True story!” Laughed Juan when his wife won the public’s choice prize; perfectly representing the relaxed, familial atmosphere of the whole evening.
WORDS: Alice Papin
PICTURES: Alice Papin