15th FIRST ·Closing Ceremony
The problems may have started from the first day.
Pouring rain for open-air screenings, sudden epidemics, forced adjustments to the itinerary, works that couldn’t arrive.
Instead, everything happened as usual in Xining.
The light of the screen continued to shine, crisscrossing multiple theaters and three cinemas; on the steps of the Geometric Bookstore, the stories of the returning audience were extended from light and shadow to the audience’s deeper heart; and from the bright stage of the public presentations, the creators talked confidently about “what I want to tell” in front of the backboards of their own works.
For nine days, everything about the movie happened simultaneously in different venues, with the audience, the creators, the work, and everyone involved.
We met a lot of sudden, surprising, and unstable, while we still programmed for continuous, calm, and tumbling. Like the one who lights the torch, the one who gets up after a fall, the one who guides the course, we search for the position and the voice we deserve.
BEST SHORT FILM: COFFIN
Award words: Realistic, mature, skillful and humanistic. A creative and ingenious exploration of the dual forms of animation and short film, with a strong social concern and mission.
FIRST International Film Festival founder Song Wen and FIRST wavebreaker Xin Yukun presented the award to the work “coffin”. Director Cai Yuanqing was a bit excited to receive the award: “I would like to thank co-director Huang Houzhi, and all the team members who participated in the production, and I hope to make more works with a sense of life in the future.”
SPECIAL MENTION: THE MOUNTAINS SING
Award words: The combination of documentary filming techniques and narrative creation, using songs as a carrier, repeatedly chanting both the departure and return of individual destinies, as well as searching for cultural resilience between the cracks, restoring a long-neglected reality.
FIRST International Film Festival founder Song Wen and FIRST wavebreaker Xin Yukun presented the award to the work “The Mountains Sing”. When receiving the award, director Yang Xiao said that this is his third time coming to FIRST, “This time I dedicate my short film The Mountains Sing to my hometown and to all the poets who bravely pursue love and freedom.”
BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM:THE SIX
Award words: Black and white, lines, minimalism and orientalism together form a challenging visual language. The author confidently and courageously presents and practices his own viewpoint and aesthetics, which are simple and repetitive, generating endless meanings in the cycle of repetitive constructions.
Short Short Film jury member Cao Fei and filmmaker Tong Yao presenting the award to “The Six”. Director Lianhua Chen, standing at the center of the stage, was at a loss for words: “Maybe some films don’t need to be interpreted, nor do they need to be clear about the director’s ideas, in order to leave the audience with a greater imagination.” Chen Lianhua also remembered his late co-director An Xu: “I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to see the finished film before he left.”
BEST DOCUMENTARY: VACANT
Wu Wenguang, the judge of this year’s FIRST Main Competition, and Ma Yingli, the judge of the FIRST Film Mart, read out the reasons for the vacancy of the honor of Best Documentary: since four works in this year’s Documentary Competition were completely or partially absent from the screenings open to the public, when the awards are detached from the viewing and from the audience, it also loses the validity and significance of the evaluation as a result. Therefore, the jury has decided that the honor of the best documentary of the year will be left vacant. We expect that images will finally reach reality and the audience.
SPRIRIT OF FREEDOM: ONE MAN FUNERAL
Award words: The minimalist story, in its extreme presentation, highlights the director’s bravery in creating the same extreme. The flavors and philosophies of life, life and death slowly unfold in the long silence.
This year’s FIRST Debut Presenters Dong Zijian, Liu Haoran, and Peng Yusheng presented the awards to the Director Chaofan, he raised the trophy on stage: “This is my third time coming to FIRST. 2016 I came with my graduation work, director Wang Kar-Wai encouraged me to keep filming, and he said he would only take a photo with me after winning the award. 2017 I walked into FIRST as a member of the Training Camp, and this platform gave me the courage and strength to keep going.”
BEST CINEMATIC SCRIPT: 160 YEARS OLD
Award words: In the family narrative with intertwined branches, the author delicately and delicately writes the experiences and emotions of each character, unfolding them in layers. The microscopic narrative presents a complex and ineffable picture of life and spiritual dilemmas, and explores those grandiose yet everyday topics of middle-class life, which are long overdue and rare.
Zhao Yuting and Zhou Yiwei, acting advisors of this year’s FIRST Training Camp, presented the awards to the Director and screenwriter Yan Bing, he was at a loss for words when received the trophy: “I was really unprepared. The script has been written for four or five years, and the screenwriter, Chen Zhicheng, couldn’t come to the show because of plateau reaction. Thanks to him, thanks to all the team, you see!”
BEST ARTISTIC ORIGINALITY: THE CLOUD IN HER ROOM
Award words: The image jumps between real and unreal, and the power of editing continues and expands the director’s creative intent, returning to the most basic level of image language to reconstruct and build. With a strong graphic intention, the film builds up an endless sense of misty feeling about emotional relationships, urban change and character growth in experimental images.
Zheng Da Sheng, mentor of this year’s FIRST Training Camp, Fu Kang and Dong Jinsong, judges of the main competition, presenting the awards to the Director and editor Zheng Lu Xinyuan，She walked onto the stage: “I believe that a certain degree of insanity can take us to arrive at sobriety, but let’s stay insane until sobriety arrives.”
BEST PERFORMER: LI YANXI – RIVER OF SALVATION
Award words: The actor’s interpretation is both comfortable and restrained, approaching the reality of the everyday in the details of language and life, and supporting the story with the texture of the character as a powerful force. The narration is eased in the performance, calm and delicate, just right.
This year’s FIRST Debut Presenter Wen Qi and filmmaker Jing Bo Ran presented the award to lead actress Li Yanxi. She choked up and said: “I hope everyone will give more chances to new actors. It’s not easy for us to hold on. I also thank the director Gao Qisheng, who gave me the key to reacquaint myself with being an actor.”
GRAND JURY PRIZE: DRIFTING
Award words: The author breaks through all kinds of limitations with the power of creativity, with his sincere social concern, controlled writing and production, which altogether constitute images and narratives with a strong sense of power. The film touches the traces of life with a sincere and critical perspective, and provokes strong empathy in the undercurrent of the storyline.
FIRST Honorary Chairman Xie Fei and Short Short Film jury member Dai Jinhua presenting the award to “Drifting”. Actor Xie Junhao was entrusted to receive the award on behalf of director Li Junshuo: “He will continue to make good movies, so let’s encourage each other.”
BEST DIRECTOR: ZHANGZHONGCHEN-THE WHITE COW
Award words: Calm narrative, complete and unified story details and style control, sincere and profound. The power of the work breaks through the image and spreads over a long period of time. The creator’s creativity and sincerity can be seen in the simplicity and conciseness of his work.
FIRST Fantastic Honorary Chairman Cao Baoping and FIRST Fantastic Ambassador Zhou Dongyu presenting the award to director Zhang Zhongchen. Zhang Zhongchen was a bit excited when he took the stage: “I started studying film in 2011, and it’s been 10 years since I finally realized my dream of making a movie. A few days ago, after the screening, an audience member asked me if I would choose other ways of expression if I didn’t have the channel of video creation. I think without the channel of image creation, my life may have lost its meaning.”
BEST NARRATIVE FEATURE: THE WHITE COW
Award words: A restrained and introverted narrative and video language, skillfully juxtaposing all kinds of counterpoints and mutual illumination in sight and sound. With the courage and sincerity of the creator, he looks into the pain and faces that have been hidden and neglected, unfolding the long years within the limited time limit, and trying to smooth out the creases with the warmth of the movie.
Sylvia Chang, Chairman of the Jury of this year’s FIRST Main Competition, and Zhou Yun, Jury member, presenting the award to the film “The White Cow”. All the creators came on stage to experience this moment together. Director Zhang Zhongchen lamented, “Thank you to my family who helped me, and I hope to show the movie to them in the hope that they will receive more love.”
AUDIENCE AWARD: NARRATIVE FEATURE-DRIFTING
AUDIENCE AWARD: DOCUMENTARY-ALL IN
The Audience awards, voted on by the audience each day beginning July 27, are announced here. The feature film “Drifting” and the documentary “All In” continued to dominate the charts from opening day, winning Audience Award – Narrative Feature category and Audience Award – Documentary category, respectively.
If it is the instinct of every image creator to record and express, we look forward to using images as a medium to convey our observations, interpretations and explanations of the times. Even if it is obscure, naked and ineffable, we need to remain firm in our belief on the way to seek resonance.
On August 2, 2021, the 15th FIRST International Film Festival closed in Xining, Qinghai.
As the curtain falls and the crowd disperses, the vibrations and echoes will not fade away. Together with more fellow travelers, let the shouts be more than just echoes, and let the conversations be more than just Xining.
FIRST, Xining, movie.
Next year, we won’t see you again.