Qiu Yang is the first Chinese filmmaker to be awarded the prestigious Palme D’or Award for his short film A Gentle Night at the 70th Cannes Film Festival in France last week.
A Gentle Night synopsis from Qiu’s website:
“In a nameless Chinese city, a mother with her daughter missing, refuses to go gentle into this good night.”
It’s a 15-minute piece about a woman’s desperate search for her missing daughter in a provincial Chinese city. The film won after being shortlisted with nine other short films, selected from 4,843 submissions. A Gentle Night/Xiao Cheng Er Yue was not only awarded the Palme d’Or, but also received a jury special mention.
The film was shot by female cinematographer Constanzes Schmitt, who is based in Berlin. And Melbourne-based female sound designer Livia Ruzic, along with Mikko Quizon and Mei Zhu, worked on the film’s sound. Li Yi produced the film, Carlo Francisco Manatad edited the film, Shan Yinghao did production design. The mother is played by Li Shuxian.
The 28-year-old Chinese director is from Changzhou City in Jiangsu Province, north of Shanghai. His grandfather was a painter and his father an architect. He spent five years studying filmmaking in Australia. Completing his undergraduate degree in Brisbane, he then received a Masters in Film and Television at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne.
Qiu talks about his experience studying abroad with the South China Morning Post:
“Just having access to different languages, different arts — uncensored — different cultures and even different kinds of people is eye-opening for someone who grew up in China.”
The film was made back in his hometown in China, where he used non-professional actors who he believes are more natural and can be themselves. But the film still had its challenges, as Qiu explains to the Sydney Morning Herald:
“In Australia, if you want resources to make a film, you just Google them. In China, there is nothing online: everything is hidden. It’s like a secret group, and I had no idea how to break into it. It took a while.”
Under the Sun Trailer:
Under the Sun gently observes corruption in the society, beginning with a boy who does a good deed by helping a lady to hospital who has taken a fall at a bus stop. The family then accuse him of causing the accident to get money from the boy. And events unfold from here in this 19-minute short.
Qiu is currently based in Paris, France, where he is writing the feature-length version of Under the Sun, and if he can raise the funds will aim to shoot it next year.
Here is the statement of intent for Under the Sun from Qiu’s website:
“In recent years, this type of scandal has frequently happened and discussed in Chinese society. And the tragic consequences of the events have led to an enormous moral crisis in China. Nobody helps anybody in public anymore and sometimes injured people are left to die on the street.
Through a traditional Chinese storytelling method — “Fu Bi Xin,” which tries to tell a story with multiple layers at the same time. The film chronicles the aftermath of the incident from different perspectives of the involved. It tries to explore the origin of this banal evil by studying how the very same families cope with the ramification.”
On a final note, here is some great advice from Qiu in an interview with AFI, for people attending the festival for the first time:
“My advice would be to enjoy the festival, as a celebration of the art, and be honest with yourself and other people. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not.”