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Taking center stage

2018-09-26 14:37

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Kites Flying High from Vietnam, one of the five winners of the Golden Ribbon awards at the annual Belt and Road Media Community Summit Forum.[Photo provided to China Daily]

As the eastern starting point of the ancient Silk Road, Xi'an has once again become a hub for countries looking to exchange cultural ideas and expand cooperation with China.

The 2018 Belt and Road Media Community Summit Forum was held in Xi'anthe capital of imperial China for at least 12 dynastiesfrom Sept 10 to 13, attracting 110 media organizations from 50 countries.

As an annual event to join hands with countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, the forum that was launched in 2016 witnessed its community expand from the first batch of 41 media outlets from 29 countries to 103 organizations from 50 nations this month.

For most television audiences, documentaries are regarded as a shortcut to quickly get a glimpse of the local lifestyle and foreign culture.

Five short documentaries, shortlisted from more than 30 entries from 14 countries, took home a Golden Ribbon award, set out by the forum organizers to reflect the diversity of civilizations.  

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Mongolian Horse from China, one of the five winners of the Golden Ribbon awards at the annual Belt and Road Media Community Summit Forum.[Photo provided to China Daily]

The winners include two Chinese titles: Be with Each Other Though Far Apart from China, about a Chinese security guard facing off copper cable thieves and wildlife poachers in Kenya, and The Mongolian Horse, which recounts the story of a horse that trekked for 50 kilometers in extreme weather conditions to rescue its herder.

The other award-winning short documentaries were Kites Flying High, a tale centering on the efforts by a Vietnamese folklorist to preserve the ancient craft of making kites; The Flying Top, which follows a group of gasing (spinning top) players in Malaysia; and The Treasure, a film depicting the life of a master carpenter in Thailand.

Three of the five latest coproductions unveiled during the forum were also documentaries.

Jointly produced by China and Italy, the 100-episode documentary series From Chang'an to Rome will explore the connection between the two cities, which were linked by the ancient Silk Road for centuries.

Chang'an, the former name of Xi'an meaning "eternal peace", was adopted by rulers of several dynasties including the Tang Dynasty (618-907), one of the most prosperous periods in Chinese history.  

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The Treasure from Thailand, one of the five winners of the Golden Ribbon awards at the annual Belt and Road Media Community Summit Forum.[Photo provided to China Daily]

"Our photographers will scour the two cities to capture stories on a variety of subjects, including architecture, food, art and military affairs," explains producer Zhao Dongwei.

"Each episode lasts five minutes. The length is suitable for a quick bite which might take the fancy of youngsters and netizens," says Zhao, adding they have also invited some top scholars to seek answers to some of the historical mysteries related to the two nations.

The documentary is currently being shot in Rome, and the crew will travel to Xi'an to make the Chinese episodes in a month's time.

Another two highlighted documentaries include the Sino-Canadian production Silk Road to Northern Lights, and Sino-French production Approaching China: Jean-Pierre Raffarin Witnesses 40 Years of Change.

Former French prime minister Raffarin is a regular visitor to China and has maintained close ties with China in the past 40 years, according to Jiang Heping, director of the foreign language channel of China Global Television Network. Raffarin launched the coproduction on Sept 11.  

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Crew of From Chang'an to Rome, a 100-episode documentary series, work in Rome.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Other than real-life stories, the futuristic world has also become an inspiration for domestic and foreign documentary producers.

Origin, a 10-episode science fiction series set in the near future, is a production created by the China International Television Corp, Britain's Left Bank Pictures and Sony Pictures Television International Production.

The drama will debut on YouTube in November in multiple languages, including English, Japanese, French and German.

Directed by English filmmaker Paul William Scott Anderson, known for the zombie-themed franchise Resident Evil, Origin is something of a horror thriller, says Wayne Garvie, president of international productions at Sony Pictures Television.

The story follows a group of people from different countries on board a spaceship traveling to colonize a new planet, but something goes wrong that wakens the passengers.

"Then we trace the stories of the individuals. It's a bit like the American series Lost," says Garvie, who also attended the forum.  

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[Photo provided to China Daily]

Speaking about why Sony Pictures selected this kind of story to be their first coproduction with the Chinese partner, Garvie explains that science fiction is an interesting format for international collaborations.

"In science fiction you can easily show people from different countries coming together. It makes sense to mix different cultures, which would be difficult to do in a contemporary story," he adds.

Although Origin doesn't have a specific Chinese character, the script has some storylines tailored for Chinese audiences that they will be able to relate to, says Garvie.

In recent years, China's film and television industries have expanded rapidly, also an ongoing trend that's raising interest from the rest of the world.

J.P. Bommel, CEO & president of NAPTE, says he is impressed by the creativity of Chinese productions and the rise in investment by Chinese companies in American and European programs.  

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[Photo provided to China Daily]

When asked about Chinese producers' long-held concerns that American audiences may be unwilling to watch foreign content with subtitles, Bommel says, "The situation has changed a lot and the barrier has been lifted".

With the popularity of some Chinese dramas on major streaming sites such as You-Tube, Americansespecially those growing up in the internet erahave grown accustomed to watching tales with subtitles.

Michael Tear, CEO of the New Zealand production company Wildbear Entertainment, which coproduced the epic documentary The Long March with the China International Television Corp, believes more Western viewers are now interested to learn about China.

As a milestone military retreat that was key to the triumph of the Communist Party and the founding of New China, The Long March is about that Red Army forces traversing more than 9,000 kilometers in around 370 days to avoid encirclement by the Kuomintang from 1934 to 1935.

Tear says the epic tale of the founding of China and its related national pride will be relevant to the Western audience.  

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Representatives from China, Britain and the United States unveil Origin, a 10-episode science fiction series, during the 2018 Belt and Road Media Community Summit Forum in Xi'an on Sept 11.[Photo provided to China Daily] (From: China Daily, By Xu Fan)