PIGMAN: Happy Mid Autumn Festival

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A Family Trip with Lufthansa

With more young people busy at work, having no time to spend with their family, this fall Lufthansa brought us a warm commercial, inviting those busy-working people to enjoy a family trip together with the German airline. 

Credits:

  • Agency: Kolle Rebbe GmbH / We Marketing Group
  • Production Company: Markenfilm
  • Director: Arvin Chen
  • DOP: Andreas Berger
  • Production Service: P.I.G. China

Honor 8 Unleashs a Storm of Youth and Fashion

The latest Huawei Honor 8 spot starring Kris Wu shows his daring side while reinforcing Huawei’s flagship product and unleashing a storm of youth and fashion.


PIGPEN CINEMA Presents CARTEL LAND

  • Tue. 30 Aug, 2016
  • Doors open 9 | Movie starts 9:30
  • 65 Maoming Bei Lu (Weihai Lu/Yan’an Lu)
  • Drink specials: beer|wine|cocktails
  • Free “Grumpy” movie popcorn
  • Only 35 seats
  • First come first serve policy

With unprecedented access, CARTEL LAND is a riveting, look at the journeys of two modern-day vigilante groups and their shared enemy – the violent Knights Templar drug cartel. In the Mexican state of Michoacán, Dr. Jose Mireles, a small-town physician leads the Autodefensas, a citizen uprising against the murderous drug cartel. Meanwhile, in Arizona’s Altar Valley – a corridor known as Cocaine Alley – Tim “Nailer” Foley, an American veteran, heads a small paramilitary group called Arizona Border Recon, whose goal is to stop Mexico’s drug wars from seeping across the border.

PIGMAN: Olympics

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Streams Become Reality

With the commercial opportunities, the meteoric rise of live streaming poses important questions for the society in which it thrives.

The ever-growing list of live streaming apps and websites in China currently stands at around 300.  In case tracking every thought, outfit change and coffee break by WeChat, Weibo and Meipai weren’t enough, every man, woman and celeb is now streaming themselves in real time, transporting viewers from exotic locales, to sport stadia, to the red carpet, all the way to the front rooms of glum bachelors chewing pot noodles.  It is estimated that at any given moment there may be more than 60,000 people live streaming themselves, with men comprising the majority of the audience, particularly for the two most popular subjects; live video games and doe-eyed, subservient young ‘Girl Goddesses’ preening and purring into their iPhone cameras. 

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Modern Chinese society provides a highly fertile environment for the phenomenon to spawn and multiply.  500 million smartphones in circulation contribute to the 5th highest worldwide penetration and ample opportunities for engaging.  In bleak cities everywhere, millions of lonely and bored migrant workers far from loved ones turn to streams to escape, alleviate boredom or seek companionship.  Stuck in a hopeless situation beyond their control, there is surely appeal to controlling the outcome of their interactions, even if in the smallest possible way.  In streams, a swelling middle class looks for lifestyle inspiration from achievers and adventurers, while a generation of twenty and thirtysomething only-children finds friends, confidants and role models.

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The phenomenon is intriguing, not so much for its popularity – after all, it may be considered just an extension of the already all-pervasive social media – rather for the fact that viewers are so eager to spend hard earned yuan on it.  It is significant that of the 300,000 people that watched Wanda Chairman Wang Jianlin stream himself playing poker on a private jet, many of the low income viewers felt compelled to donate money to China’s wealthiest man.

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Live streaming has become an extremely lucrative industry, a mini economy fuelled by virtual gifts, in the form of e-roses, e-chocolates or other e-token that equate to money, that the viewer may donate in exchange for influence on the streamer’s behavior or to express gratitude.  The highest earners by far are the pretty young girls offering chitchat, makeup tips or flashes of cleavage, some of whom earn from 80,000 yuan per night, up as far as Papi Jiang, who whipped up a berserk 900,000 yuan during one 90 minute session.

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As the girls get rich, so too are the hosting platforms, which take 50% or more of the gift revenue and are beginning to sell advertising space.  Investors have so far pumped an estimated $750 million of venture capital into live streaming apps.  Brands are pouncing too, paying key opinion streamers to endorse products, or streaming directly from their stores.  Last month, American department store giant Macy’s attracted 100,000 viewers to a live Chinese language in-store broadcast, while China’s highly evolved e-commerce ecosystem, which in this case saw Macy’s team with Tmall, allows viewers to easily make purchases within the stream. 

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In addition to the throngs of amateurs jumping on the stream train, established content creators are also taking notice.  Rebecca Yang, founder and CEO of IPCN, an IP licenser and original creator regards it as an opportunity that cannot be ignored, saying,  I can’t say I am pro this culture, but I want to understand it. We as content providers need to think how it can be taken to our advantage, to create something a lot more valuable and entertaining.”  IPCN recently launched a stream of their Shanghai office with heavily scripted elements occurring alongside the real.  It marks a new form of reality television, somewhere between scripted dramas filmed live, and real shows like Big Brother that, though heavily manipulated, are not actively scripted or cast with actors.

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Live streaming stokes the same debates about individual health and wellbeing that have existed since social media began dominating young peoples’ consciousness.  Despite connecting digitally, individuals are extracting themselves from the real world unfolding around them, often at the expense of physical human contact.  More than ever before, the impressionable are following unsuitable role models that promote unrealistic ideals or body image.

The psychological well-being of a growing numbers of addicted streamers may be a cause for concern for authorities, though a cynic might quote the benefits of an increasingly isolated, distracted population, venting their social frustrations in the relative harmlessness of online live stream rooms.  Regardless, said authorities are naturally monitoring the situation, while streaming services themselves are employing large teams to watch for political or overly sexual content.  However, with diverse new streams cropping up daily, rules on specifically forbidden content are being issued on a reactive rather than proactive basis.  Infamously, in a bid to curb the increasingly raunchy Girl Goddesses, streamers are now banned from eating bananas in a suggestive fashion. 

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Live streaming is no fad, hot app or hobby.  2D feeds will soon be supplemented with, and perhaps eventually replaced by, immersive virtual reality streams, as apparatus becomes readily available and app compatible.  As big business, brands and celebrities inject promotional and financial clout and little sign of the socio-economic conditions abating, expect the live stream wave to continue to engulf all before it.

PIGMAN: Gotta Catch ’em All!

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The Japanese Schindler

Director Cellin Gluck’s Persona Non Grata tells the remarkable story of Chiune Sugihara.

“I may have disobeyed my government but, had I not done what I did, I would be disobeying God”, said Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese diplomat whose selfless actions saved thousands of Jewish lives during World War II. Director Cellin Gluck’s latest feature film, Persona Non Grata, tells Sugihara’s remarkable story.

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(foreground) Chiune Sugihara (Toshiaki Karasawa) and (background)General Hiroshi Oshima, Japanese Ambassador to Germany Hiroshi Oshima (Fumiyo Kohinata)

In 1939, Chiune Sugihara was posted to serve as Vice-Consul for Japan in Kaunas, Lithuania. As the Nazis and Soviet Union seized more land across Europe, persecuted Jewish refugees, finding no unoccupied nation willing to take them, came to Sugihara seeking an escape route to Japan. When Tokyo refuses to issue them entry visas for Japan, Sugihara knows that compliance will condemn the refugees to their fate under the Nazis. A solution presents itself when he learns that the Dutch consul was issuing documents stating that the bearer could enter the colony of Curacao, a territory where no visa was required. Provided with a final destination, it gave Sugihara excuse enough to provide transit visas through Japan, a type of visa he was never explicitly told not to issue, and the refugees a means of getting through the Soviet Union. To buy time, he writes to Tokyo seeking clarification of the original refusal, giving him a grey area in which to act in the meantime. As Gluck explains, “It’s plausible deniability to use a 21st century term. It’s the way diplomacy should work… It’s all games and I think that’s the beauty of the story.” Sugihara’s actions saved an estimated 6000 lives but cost him his career.

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Cellin Gluck (left) directs Fumiyo Kohinata

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Cellin Gluck first become interested in the story after reading The Fugu Plan, a book about proposals to resettle Jewish refugees in Japan. “You can’t write this stuff, the truth is stranger than fiction… the story blew me away”, he explains. In 2014, Japanese studio Nippon TV decided to make a picture to unofficially mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, casting Toshiaki Karasawa to play Sugihara. Karasawa, who had acted in Gluck’s 2011 movie Oba The Last Samurai, insisted that if the film was not going to be in Japanese, nor shot in Japan, then there was only one director with the multicultural perspective that could do the story justice.

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Chiune Sugihara (Toshiaki Karasawa) and Wolfgang Gudze (Cezary Łukaszewicz)

“I speak the language fluently and I understand the Japanese psyche to a certain extent, I can do both. I can make films the American way… but I still have Japanese sensitivities”, says Gluck.

The director was born in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, to a Jewish American father and Japanese American mother. After graduation from college in the US, his first film job was carrying the mirror for famously volatile eccentric Klaus Kinski on avant-garde Japanese director Shūji Terayama’s Fruits of Passion. He moved to New York to become an actor but instead found work directing commercials for a Japanese advertising agency. In 1988, he returned to Japan to work as an Assistant Director on Ridley Scott’s Black Rain.

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Cellin Gluck (right) directs Michał Żurawski

His American-Japanese background has frequently informed his movie career, which has included roles as Japanese unit production manager on Godzilla (2014) and Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) as well as the 2nd unit director on The Hunted (1995) and Into the Sun (2005). His directorial highlights include Saidoweizu – a 2009 Japanese remake of the Academy-Award winning US comedy Sideways – and Oba The Last Samurai, his co-written film about the survival of a small group of soldiers after the Battle of Saipan at the end of World War II.

In 1998, Gluck co-founded production company, P.I.G, which now has offices in L.A and Shanghai.

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Irina (Agnieszka Grochowska)

One of challenges in building the story was the limited amount of first-hand information from Sugihara. The fact that he never wrote an autobiography and rarely talked about his actions is telling of the humble character of the man, who acted purely because he felt it was the right thing to do.

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(Left to right)  Dariusz Krysiak (Make up artist), Borys Szyc and Cellin Gluck

In an attempt to accurately capture the diplomat’s character, the Japanese writers Tetsuro Kamata and Hiromichi Matsuo did enormous amounts of research, including spending time with Sugihara’s eldest son’s widow and granddaughter. For the scenes with religious overtones, Gluck consulted with rabbis and Russian orthodox priests. The cast of characters also reflects reality, with Sugihara’s driver Pesch an amalgam of the three or more Polish agents that worked for the diplomat, while love interest Irene is a nod to his Russian first wife.

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Avraham Goehner (Zbigniew Zamachowski) and Chiune Sugihara (Toshiaki Karasawa)

Produced by Cine Bazar and Nippon Television Films, the 42-day shoot was initially planned to be in Lithuania, but an insufficient domestic supply of equipment and crew negated the rebate incentives. Instead the US$6m production moved to neighbouring Poland, an appropriate choice given 90% of those Sugihara saved were Polish. It also brought a wealth of top Polish acting talent, including Borys Szye (Pesch) and Agnieszka Grochowska (Irina). The DoP was Academy Award nominated Hollywood veteran Garry Waller.

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Cellin Gluck (Director), Michał Magoń (DIT), Garry Waller (DP), Paweł Dylik (Grip), Hubert Koprowicz (1st AD), Marzena Wojciechowska (Costume)

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Sugihara’s story has brought inevitable comparisons with 1993’s Schindler’s List. In fact, there were ‘Schindlers’ who helped save Jewish lives in many territories – Estonia, Sweden, Austria, France, China and beyond – the stories of whom started emerging after Spielberg’s movie. “Schindler became a catalyst to get the stories out,” says Gluck “The irony is, Schindler did his work in ’44, whereas all these other guys were saving Jewish lives in 1940 and ’41”.

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Yukiko Sugihara (Koyuki) and Chiune Sugihara (Toshiaki Karasawa)

Sugihara’s actions saw him dismissed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after World War II. Various menial jobs and a life of obscurity working for a small trading company in Moscow ensued. Though the Israeli government named him ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ a year before his death in 1986, a Japanese reluctance to talk about World War II meant he was not formally recognised by his own government until 2000. His name has now been submitted for inclusion in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.

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Chiune Sugihara (Toshiaki Karasawa) and Wolfgang Gudze (Cezary Łukaszewicz)

The positive reaction to Persona Non Grata has brought a fresh wave of recognition for Sugihara’s story. At its world premiere in Kaunas last October, the film received a five-minute standing ovation and it has been seen by over a million people in Japan, taking $12m – a substantial achievement in the domestic box office for a historical film. It has been screened at the Atlanta Jewish and Washington Japanese Film Festivals, on Holocaust Remembrance day at the YIVO Institute in New York, and won the Special Jury Award for Cinematic Excellence and Social Justice at the Oregon DisOrient Film Festival.

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(Left to right) Hubert Koprowicz (1st AD), Toshiaki Karasawa, Koyuki, Cellin Gluck (director)

PIGPEN CINEMA Presents THE FIRST MONDAY IN MAY

  • Tue. 26 Jul, 2016
  • Doors open 9 | Movie starts 9:30
  • 65 Maoming Bei Lu (Weihai Lu/Yan’an Lu)
  • Drink specials: beer|wine|cocktails
  • Free “Grumpy” movie popcorn
  • Only 35 seats
  • First come first serve policy

The First Monday in May follows the creation of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s most attended fashion exhibition in history, “China: Through The Looking Glass,” an exploration of Chinese-inspired Western fashions by Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton. Andrew Rossi captures the collision of high fashion and celebrity at the Met Gala. Chaired every year by Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, the event features Wong Kar Wai, Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier and John Galliano, as well as pop icons like Rihanna.

 

Dazzling BVLGARI

P.I.G.’s latest film for Bulgari China. Out of La Maison Shanghai and in co-production with Handsome, directed by Eugenio Recuenco,  the Chinese star Kris Wu brought us a dazzling fashion show.

Credits:

  • Agency: La Maison Shanghai
  • Director: Eugenio Recuenco
  • Production Houses: P.I.G. China / Handsome
  • Post Production: Nightshift
  • Music: GUM Shanghai