In October we will be taking a selection of films from the ESFF ’14 to Shanghai as part of an exciting collaborative project with Kan-Kan Media. Here, Paulina Salas-Ruiz, founding director of Kan-Kan Media tells us a little more about the organisation, the Chinese film world and what our Shanghai audiences can expect this October.
Tell us about Kan-Kan Media and how you got started screening short films in Shanghai…
Kankan Media is a platform for promotion and exchange of independent films around the world. We started in Beijing in 2010 with the idea to create a small cinema forum to show good quality non-mainstream films. At that time we were using a tiny but cosy space provided by a Chinese painter who liked our idea. As we moved to Shanghai we had to postpone the screenings for some time until we got another place in the bustling city centre. During that time we met a group of independent filmmakers from Shanghai who were keen on screening their films in our Cinema Forum. We started to run weekly screenings and came up with the name that aligned with our idea of showing the films to wider public. This is how KAN-KAN (“look” in Mandarine) came up as a name for our project.
We started showing the films organised into themes (according to genre, country, emotion, etc). Our ever-growing (now 500+) audience is a mix of film lovers and artists. In order to fulfil our dream of bringing the film-makers closer to their public and creating dialogue, we have the directors to hold Q&A after the screenings, either in person or via Skype. Four years on, our aim to build bridges between visual artists and the public is still our main motivation and thanks to links that we have created with the independent film communities in China, the Middle East and everywhere we go, we are fulfilling our dream.
What particular difficulties are there in screening and making short films in Shanghai and China?
One of the difficulties was the language barrier and finding the right channels to promote the cinema forum. We found that the social networking tools in China that are so important for the promotion of projects like ours were different from the ones used by the expats, although the Chinese often use both their local and Western tools (Facebook, Twitter, etc).
As far as making short films in China is concerned, I think this is actually one of the best places to do it. There are so many stories to tell from different perspectives and also there is a good amount of talented Chinese and foreign people willing to participate and collaborate in film projects. We also felt there is sometimes more freedom and openness to making films in the local environment than, say, in Europe.
What are the best things about screening Short Films in China?
The process of sharing the stories with the public and their immense interest for a foreign cinema is just great to start with. There is also an emotional involvement and a great support for our project from both the Chinese and the expat audience. Also the opportunity to be one of the very few platforms around that show independent films is a big asset.
What kind of films do Chinese audiences enjoy seeing?
We try to balance the program to give variety in terms of content, sometimes the way that you connect one film after other can create a strong feeling and desire in the audience to continue participating in the forum. I think Drama, Documentary and Animation with stories that can show a bit of culture, a way of living and things that are new to the local audience are always welcome and fulfil the interest of the public.
What is different about Chinese Film Culture? Is there a strong audience for short film in Shanghai?
I think being a part of a global visual culture has changed and modified the way that we accept the contents everywhere. In the case of the Chinese audience that is used to commercial films downloaded from the internet or Hollywood box-office flicks shown in cinemas, there is a growing demand for more options now offered by the new, good film festivals and initiatives like Kan-Kan, where short films unavailable in commercial film theatres appear.
What is the future for Kan-Kan Media and Short Film Production in Shanghai?
Right now we are extending our platforms to other regions such as Europe and South America. One of our big projects this year is in October where we will host the Edinburgh Short Film Festival 2014 in Shanghai. In terms of production, as part of the Festival this year we are planning to run a workshop with a very talented director Kate Sullivan from the UK. We also expect to produce several short documentaries which will premiere on the last day of the Festival in October.
Any Anecdotes about your time making films and showing films in China?
One of the most memorable anecdotes was the production of one of my short films “TONG DO YOU SPEAK IT?”. We had a truly multinational crew and some of us couldn’t speak either Chinese or English. As a director I had to give instructions in both languages but none of them being my mother tongue. It was hilarious, because this is what the film was about (language barriers) but it worked in the end because I had an amazing team of talented people and to be honest, sometimes sounds and gestures work better than words as a different way to direct actors on the set.
How much interest is there in China for films from Europe and around the world?
There for sure a huge interest and immense curiosity in China about what directors from other countries are doing, people are expectant and happy to watch the work of talented directors from around the world… which keeps us going!