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American Filmmakers in China, Part V
by Bart Weiss 14 Dec 2011

Guest Blogger Bart Weiss writes about his trip to China for the American Documentary Showcase. This is his fifth post from the trip.


Guest blogger Bart Weiss is the Artistic Director of VideoFest. He will be blogging from China during his trip for the American Documentary Showcase. Read his previous post here.

Tuesday morning we went to the Silk Road, which is a bargain heaven. They have knockoffs of everything you can imagine. I wanted to get a few gifts but didn’t have much time because we had to be back to the festival. As we walked down the isles, people really aggressively asked if we want new jeans, a new camera – new everything. At one point, a woman grabbed my hand and dragged me into her booth. Bargaining is insane – I bought a few things and don’t feel badly – but I have no idea how much what I bought is worth. Also, one wonders who made these good and under what condition.

After our shopping excursion, we headed back for the panel on film festivals that I was on. I talked about my process of picking work and about things I really don’t like in submissions. The other panelist, Peter Wintonick, talked about the international festival scene. Before our talk, I didn’t sense that the people in the audience were very interested in getting their work into festivals or going to them. But after the discussion, it seemed as if they might start sending their work out. At a break, I was chatting with a woman who produces films for the Chinese TV channel and for her self. She wanted to show me this cave she made a film about, but there was no time.

After the session, I got a tour of the Beijing Film Academy (right), which is massive. The acting school, I am told, has all the hot men and women in town – people hang around looking for dates. But most of China’s best actors have also been trained there, and many teach there. We only got to see a few of the departments – sound and the art – but their facilities were really impressive and the attitude of these students was impressive.

We were then hoping to play some basketball in the academy court, but it was getting a bit cold and the pollution was picking up. So we went off to dinner. The drive in the heavy pollution near rush hour was probably the slowest, most dense traffic I have ever seen.

For dinner, we went to a place that serves the traditional Peking duck, with the server cutting it at your table and everything. By the time we got done, the air quality was really bad and it really wasn’t a good time to go out. So the cultural specialist in the group,  Mr Song, taught us a great card game called Beat the Landlord.

Anyone who wants to learn, get with me when I come back. It’s complicated.