On 28 October, I was lucky enough to be invited along to see the film Cloudy Mountain hosted by Chinese Film Week and Durham University Chinese Studies Society (DUCSS). The Chinese Film Week was founded by two Chinese Studies finalists, Oscar Chambers and Daniel Shulakov. While on their year abroad at Peking University, the two saw how through the exportation of Chinese media in England, the bridge between western ignorance of the “East” could be further closed. Especially in a post-pandemic world, which last year saw a massive increase in anti-Chinese sentiment and attacks on people of Eastern Asian descent. Therefore, the two made it their mission to bring more Chinese media over to the West, starting with Durham.
Their goal is to increase collaboration with the UK’s growing Chinese-speaking diaspora and to open a dialogue about issues relating to anti-Chinese sentiment. Their project is of great importance and has gained the support of Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for China, John Edwards. Like him, I agree this project will be foundational in promoting conversations and inclusivity between Brits and Chinese people, their media markets, and governments. The Chinese Film Week’s big project for the upcoming year is to create a week-long film festival in February, showcasing a variety of Chinese cinema, though, to begin with, the group has already started putting out films to gauge interest and promote the upcoming week.
In preparation for the film, I also got the opportunity to sit down with Chambers and Shulakov and talk to them about their process and reasoning behind the founding of the Chinese Film Week. I learned that they are both former social secretaries of DUCSS and had spent the last year at Peking University as part of their degree. However, their connections to China and the inspiration for this project predate their degrees. Chambers was born in Hong Kong to a Taiwanese mother and English father, and felt that this in itself led him to think about his identity early on and what it meant in the globalised world as a child of mixed ethnic background and a “third-culture kid”. He also joked about how “Sino-British relations run in his blood”.
Like Chambers, Shulakov also had a globalised experience growing up. Being Russian himself, he grew up in London and has been learning Chinese for eight years. His research focuses on looking at Western, Russian, and Chinese ways of thinking through language, culture and economic development, and in turn, exemplified his own globalised thinking. Shulakov is also the current Vice President of DUCSS.
The film itself came from China and was shown at the Odeon Luxe Theatre, here in Durham, making it stand out from other student-led film week attempts, which typically do not rent out an actual cinema for their event. The film covered multiple points of view of the earthquake and landslide events that happen throughout the movie and their responses to it. It was a moving and high action film that not only kept me and everyone in the theatre enraptured but also gave insight into how a different culture reacts in a state of emergency.
Rather than having a singularized focus on one character, we explore how multiple characters all end up working together to execute a primary goal, keeping the local people safe, and a secondary goal of protecting their project. The film also shows a different style of film creation, through more technical aspects, such as an epic use of music and shots to convey the story. Whilst it is important to always note that there is a grain of fiction in these stories (as with all cinema around the world), they still are inspired and drawn from the culture in which the people producing them live. This is why this film, and many more the project is planning on showing, will be a great way for everyone to get to learn more about Chinese culture.
These films are a stepping point though and do not pretend to be anything else. It is through the conversations they open that you will learn the most. The event was a great experience and I suggest everyone go and see at least one of the films they are showcasing at some point and let it start your journey of learning more about the world around us, demystifying China and becoming a global citizen.
The project has already secured its second film, Raging Fire, announced to be shown on 12 November.
More information can be found by following them on Instagram @chinesefilmweekuk
Image: Oscar Chambers