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If You Were Given 36 Hours to Make a Doc on a Chinese Ritual, What Would You Produce?

2017-02-16 14:29:36 Huan Yang-Williams

From tea ceremonies, to calligraphy, to Kungfu and legend stories, the selected short documentaries presented at the London Doc Festival's A Doc in a Day: Chinese New Year filmmaking competition, presented a range of insightful interpretations of how Chinese rituals are integrated in everyday life. Co-organised with China Exchange last week, the competition challenged filmmakers of all levels to make a 2- 6 minute documentary within just 36 hours on the theme of Ritual. The competition was judged by Richard Melman, Xiaowen Zhu and Thomas Meadmore, whose own films have appeared on National Geographic and Channel.

The runner up wasTraining the Mind Monkey, a 4:07 min film produced by Keziah Mastin, Afshin Rohani, Lara Owen and Lusine Mehrabyan. It documents a Yugoslavian man, Milan Kapetan, a Kungfu master at the Shaolin Temple UK where he trains and performs Kungfu. It isa form of self-expression and spirituality. It has become integral to who he is. Even the simplest gesture of a bow and the conscious control of breathing brings his mind to the true present state.

Chun Li-an, a 3.23min long film tells the story of a Chinese calligraphy artist called Kin, who came to London in 1990. The term Chun Li-an refers to the red banners that Chinese people stick on either side of their front door frame. Poetic rhyming couplets of luck, prosperity and harmony are written on it to welcome the new year.

Kin recounts his endearing story of the early days in London where he self-taught calligraphy to retain his connection to his homeland. The everyday practice of calligraphy has become his daily ritual, a constant rhythm in his life connecting his present life in London with his past in China.

Another stand out film was the 5:30min New Year Blessings. It opens with the bright festivities in London Chinatown as dragon and lion dancers parade up and down Gerrard Street. Like Christmas, Chinese New Year is a time for family, friends and the community. It is a time to bring people together and feast on rich foods with symbolic meanings of luck and prosperity.

Cuppa gives a good comparison of the different tea rituals and ceremonies between British, Chinese and Japanese teas, which all place an emphasis on peace.

Red Ritual interviews a Chinese man who tells the story of an ancient Chinese legend where a monster Nian terrorised a village but was scared off by the colour red and loud noises, hence why firecrackers are lit and red is such a prominent colour in Chinese New Year celebrations.

Wishes interviews a woman who visits a temple in Asia where if you were lucky enough to see a certain fish in a pond, your wish would come true.

The winning documentary was Knowing the Right Colour, a 3:07min documentary produced by William Bloomfield, Jack Miller, Caroline Brown, Harry Vakatalai and Carl Burkitt.

Drawing parallels between the act of British tea making and the Chinese tea ceremony. A British cuppa has its own spiritual dimension by enveloping the drinker into a world of calm and relaxation away from the hustle and bustle of a busy city.

By contrast, the Chinese tea ceremony has a procession of stages, each meticulously performed to brew the optimum taste out of tea. He recounts once upon a Saturday morning, he met a “wise Chinese man” who introduced him to ‘Kungfu tea’ and indulged in sipping shots of Chinese tea brewed quickly using a lot of tea leaves. A repetitive ritual that resulted in four hours of tea drinking.

(header photo taken from Knowing the Right Colour)

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