First Chinese Film Director to Win Palme d’Or for Short Film

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:

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.

Director Qiu Yang. (Image via Festival De Cannes/Twitter)

Director Qiu Yang. (Image: Festival De Cannes/Twitter)

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:

Short Film Palme d’Or shortlisted Directors. (Image via Festival De Cannes/Twitter)

Short Film Palme d’Or shortlisted Directors — Qiu Yang on LHS. (Image: Festival De Cannes/Twitter)

This isn’t the first time one of his films has made it to Festival de Cannes. In 2015, Qiu’s graduating film from the VCA, Under the Sun, was selected in the Cinéfondation student short competition.

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:

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:

Still from Qiu Yang short film 'Under the Sun.' (Image via Qiu Yang Screenshot/Vimeo)

Still from Qiu Yang’s short film ‘Under the Sun.’ (Image: Qiu Yang Screenshot/Vimeo)

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:

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