Chinese Burn

What began as a gathering of 12 friends on the beach in 1986 has since grown into a 70,000-strong annual extravaganza in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.  The weeklong experiment in art and community sees a mass migration deep into the scorching wilderness, the construction of a vast encampment dotted with towering wooden sculptures, and a carnival of raw human expression culminating in an apocalyptic blaze.  But as any ‘burner’ will tell you, it’s impossible to explain Burning Man.  To truly understand it, it must be experienced. 

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Burning Man 2015

A growing number of these burners are attempting to recreate that experience in various locations worldwide.  Shanghai’s Dragon Burn was launched in 2014 by a group of experienced burners led by Sven Aarne, one of the 80-odd participants in 1987 at the second ever ‘Burning Man’ on the beach in San Francisco.  Burning Man’s relationship with the Middle Kingdom first began in 2004, when it featured a Chinese Speakers Tea Party for Chinese attendees to gather in the Nevada desert, a tradition that has continued every year since. 

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Burning Man 2015

Physically, Dragon Burn bears no resemblance to its Nevada counterpart.  300 people in a park with built-in amenities is a far cry from the hordes that populate the unforgiving Nevada desert, and Shanghai burners will (probably) find no ‘mutant vehicles’, orgies or nudity in Anji this year.  What connects it, and other affiliated events, with Burning Man, and differentiates it from other conventional festivals, is ten guiding principles.  Free of commercial interests (decommodification), the cashless communes necessitate self-reliance and a system of gifting, while ‘leave no trace’ dictates no litter or scars should be left on the site after the event. Inclusiveness is mandatory and self-expression central, whether that is to create art, hug a stranger, or just get high and sprinkle someone with glitter.

Burning Man 2013

Burning Man 2013

As such, Dragon Burn features no sponsors, no cash on-site and all money from ticket sales will go to grants for art installations, administrative costs and the 12-foot dragon effigy that will be constructed by a team of volunteers and incinerated on the last night.  Burners will bring their own food, drink at a free bar and can enjoy free massages, yoga or any of the other workshops provided by fellow community members.

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Burning Man 2015

Aarne acknowledges that transferring and upholding the ten principles in a new territory, especially one as commercially-driven and environmentally indifferent as China, poses challenges, but believes it is a cause worth undertaking, “When people are no longer surrounded by money and commerce, they change. Those moments are precious and the founding volunteers of Dragon Burn are trying to share that unique interaction with the people that attend.  Our goals are to hold events where cell phones and selfies are useless, where your experience is personal and treasured.” 

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Burning Man 2015

Dragon Burn has been gathering momentum since launching in 2014.  This year, half of the tickets have already been sold without any marketing, submissions to construct art installations have risen to 70 up from 15 last year, and there are plans to construct more small stages to accommodate the extra volunteer DJs.  Organisers are seeking to shift the balance away from the previous foreigner dominated events by attracting a larger Chinese contingent, an aim that should be aided by a growing awareness of the Burning Man philosophy through Chinese social media. 

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Burning Man 2013

Dragon Burn may be incomparable with its US forefather, but remains one of the more unique among the recent wave of festivals to hit China, particularly as it is expressly non-profit.  It will be interesting to see how the principles resonate with the increasing number of Chinese burners and how large the movement is able to grow in the coming years.

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Burning Man 2015

The Ten Principles

  1. Radical Inclusion: Welcoming and respecting the stranger.  Anyone may participate.
  2. Gifting: Instead of cash, participants are encouraged to rely on a gift economy.
  3. Decommodification: Creating social environments without commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. No cash transactions are permitted.
  4. Radical self-reliance: Encouraging the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources. Participants must bring all their own supplies.
  5. Radical self-expression: Encouraging self-expression through various art forms and projects. The event is clothing-optional and public nudity is common.
  6. Communal effort: Valuing creative cooperation and collaboration and striving to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces and works of art.
  7. Civic responsibility: Assuming responsibility for public welfare and endeavoring to communicate civic responsibilities to participants.
  8. Leaving no trace: Committing to leaving no physical trace after the event.
  9. Participation: Encouraging deep personal participation to help achieve transformative change.
  10. Immediacy: Overcoming inter-personal barriers, recognition of inner selves and reality of others, participation in society, and contact with the natural world.

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Burning Man 2015

 

Information

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Meters/bonwe x Disney want you to have Fun

Chinese apparel giant Meters/bonwe has released a three-part campaign to launch its new line of alphabet tees made in collaboration with Disney. Anomaly Shanghai worked with P.I.G. China and Passion Pictures director Plenty to create three whimsical 15-second spots centered around themes of Fun, Love and Joy.

Renowned for their eclectic, energetic aesthetic, Plenty blends playful animation and live footage to imagine a wonderland in which ice-cream-headed models dance with boxing gloves, rainbows and hot-air balloons. Recalling the childhood joy inspired by Mickey and friends, the spots feature a small selection of the more than 1000-piece collection of Disney-themed garments. 

Buenos Aires-based Plenty has recently joined the Passion Pictures Australia stable of talent.

Credits:

  • Client: Meters /Bonwe
  • Brand Manager: Yoyo Sun
  • Agency: Anomaly Shanghai
  • ECD:  Elvis Chau
  • Production Company: P.I.G. China / Passion Pictures Australia
  • P.I.G. China EP: Melissa Lee
  • Passion Pictures Australia EP:  Katie Mackin
  • Director: Plenty
  • Creative Director: Mariano Farías
  • Cinematographer: Sol Abadi
  • Art Director: Valeria Moreiro
  • Plenty EP: Inés Palmas
  • Music and Sound Design: Mil Cables

China’s Leftover Women

An evocative new film from cosmetics brand SK-II, produced by US production company TOOL of North America, and locally by PIG China, directed by Floyd Russ with creative ideas and strategy by agency Forsman & Bodenfors, highlights an emotionally charged phenomenon permeating modern Chinese society.  The film, which has received over 1 million views on Youku within 24 hours of its initial release, uncovers the plight of ‘leftover’ women – a term that has come into common usage in China in recent years to describe unmarried women – and challenges the unforgiving attitudes of their overbearing parents.

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China’s development steam train has brought immeasurable benefits but left a wake of social problems, including a chasm in values between conservative parents and their grown up children. This means having a career, being independent and choosing one’s own destiny, combined with the influence of western culture in which the sanctity of marriage continues to be eroded, has led to a major shift in attitude among China’s Generation Y.

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Their parents however, raised in deeply conservative times, hold a staunch set of contrasting beliefs. Marriage is a central tenet of the all-important family unit. For them, it is not possible that a daughter could be happy, or sufficiently well off to lead a comfortable life without a husband, something she will find increasingly difficult to find after the age of twenty-five, when she will be deemed ‘over the hill’. Filial piety, a cornerstone of traditional Chinese values, dictates that your parents’ wishes and beliefs should be respected. They have been selfless in raising the child and it is the duty of the grown up child to pay them back.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 19.19.41People’s Park ‘Marriage Market’, Shanghai

The results of this generational divide are bizarre and depressing. A booming matchmaking industry plays out alongside ‘marriage markets’ across the country, regular gatherings at which parents and grandparents shop their unwed offspring around like animals at a farmers market. Parents worry themselves sick and place blame on the child. Desperation to see their daughter marry leads to unhappy relationships and a soaring divorce rate.

While it is unlikely that a single film will effect any change in the deeply embedded attitudes of Chinese parents, the already buzzing discourse online confirms that this is a real issue for millions of women across China. Hopefully bringing the problem into the spotlight and sharing their experiences can provide China’s single women with some measure of relief.

Credits:

  • Client: SK-II
  • Advertisers Supervisor: Kylene Campos
  • Advertisers Supervisor Titel: Brand Director, Global SK-II
  • Creative Agency: Forsman & Bodenfors
  • Account Supervisor: Susanna Fagring
  • Account Manager: Linda Tiderman
  • Art Director: Sophia Lindholm, Karina Ullensvang
  • Copywriter: Tove Eriksen Hillblom
  • Designer: Christian Sundén
  • Planner: My Troedsson
  • PR Strategist: Amat Levin
  • Agency Producer, Film/Digital: Alexander Blidner (film), Peter Gaudiano (digital)
  • Production company: Tool
  • Postproduction: Cut n Run
  • Media/PR agency (inkl. adress etc): BeOn
  • Director: Floyd Russ
  • Producer: Mary Church
  • Music: Victor Magro / Future Perfect Music 
  • Exec producer: Robert Helphand
  • D.O.P: Jacob Moller
  • Editor: Robert Ryang
  • Sound: Cut n Run

Queer is Here

ShanghaiPRIDE Film Festival programmer Mathew Baren on establishing a queer film festival in China

“Chinese queer experience is different, but probably not in the way you would think,” explains Matthew Baren, festival programmer for ShanghaiPRIDE Film Festival 2016. “It’s about dispelling misconceptions. Of course they face many problems, but they have different problems for different reasons. In Europe and North America, much of the difficulties that queer people face are because of religion in society, which isn’t really a factor here. Here it’s more about family, even to the point where someone can come out but still be expected to get married, have kids and continue the family line.”

ShanghaiPRIDE launched in 2009 but it wasn’t until 2015 that Baren and colleague Alvin Li introduced a formal film festival element. The aim, he explains, is to give a voice to underrepresented queer filmmakers in China, “LGBT stories still very often tend to be about white men, but there are some amazing stories coming from China that deserve to be heard.”

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Alvin Li (ShPFF Festival Coordinator & Events), Desmond Loh (Producer, Stink), Cheng Pei Pei (actress), masamojo (filmmakers) and Matthew Baren (ShPFF Festival Coordinator & Programmer) at ShPFF 2015 award ceremony

Moreover, entering the short film competition gives filmmakers access to ShPFF’s network of festival programmers worldwide. Last year’s winning film, A Straight Journey: Days and Nights in Their Kingdom is testament to that.   The 22-minute portrait of 48 gay people and their families in 11 cities across China by Beijing photographers masamojo premiered at ShPFF 2015 and has gone on to feature in festivals in Beijing, Taiwan, Europe and the US.

masamojo’s “A Straight Journey: Days and Nights in Their Kingdom”

Like masamojo’s film, Baren notes a tendency in Chinese queer film toward real stories, compared to the fictional narratives common to those from the west, “I think that’s kind of a dynamic of Chinese independent or DIY filming. People are shooting with their DV camera the things they see on the streets on a day to day basis.”

Though homosexuality was legalised in China in 1997 and attitudes in society are gradually becoming more open-minded, China’s gay community still faces challenges. For China’s LGBT activists, filmmaking is an important tool for bringing issues to light. In one recent landmark case, filmmaker Fan Popo last year sued the State Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) for allegedly demanding that Chinese video streaming sites take his documentary about the mothers of gay children, ‘Mama Rainbow’, offline. SAPPRFT denied ever sending such a request and Fan won the case, but restrictions on queer content do not appear to be easing.

‘Mama Rainbow’ by Fan Popo

Events like ShPFF and the Love Queer Cinema Week (formerly Beijing Queer Film Festival), the country’s longest running gay film festival founded in 2001, tend to favour bars and venues provided by international consulates as opposed to official state-approved cinemas. Baren suggests that such intimate environments help encourage another of the festivals key objectives: dialogue and discussion. “As much as it is about watching great movies and supporting filmmakers, it is a forum in which people can share their ideas and their knowledge.

The theme running through this year’s programme is gender, addressing issues affecting transgender, non-binary and agender people. Gender minorities are often the most marginalised within our community. They don’t have legal protection in the workplace or housing, they are more likely to receive abuse, there are fewer spaces for them,” explains Baren. “We want the festival this year to be a space where trans voices can be heard, and where people can educate themselves.”

ShPFF 2016 trailer

This year’s festival builds on a successful inaugural year, which saw one of China’s best-loved movie stars, Cheng Pei Pei, attend the festival’s China mainland premiere of Lilting, the British film in which she starred alongside Ben Whishaw. An array of established directors such as Beijing Queer Film Festival founder Cui Zi’en and producer Desmond Loh from Stink Shanghai made up the experienced jury. Judges this year include Lilting director and BAFTA award nominee Hong Khaou, and Kit Hung, the filmmaker best known for Teddy Award nominated Soundless Wind Chime. The winning film will be entered into contention for the UK’s Iris Prize, with a top prize of £30,000 towards the director’s next project.

Lilting1Cheng Pei Pei and Ben Whishaw in Hong Khaou’s “Lilting”

  • ShanghaiPRIDE Film Festival runs from 17-26th June.  Submission for the ShPFF Short film competition closes April 15th.  Click here for more details.
  • ShanghaiPRIDE 2016 runs from June 17-26th.  Click here for more details.
  • ShanghaiPRIDE Film Festival runs a monthly underground queer cinema night, Catch their next event on April 7th at Craft (5 Donghu Lu), 8.30pm, Free entry

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