Belt and Road Film Alliance unites diverse cultures

Wu Lang
The Dhaka and FAJR international film festivals, both affiliated with the Belt and Road Film Festival Alliance, dedicated segments to Chinese creators and Chinese films.
Wu Lang

Editor's note:

The Silk Road, not only served as Eurasian trading routes active since the 2nd century BC, but also transmitted cultural exchanges from all the different civilizations along the way. The famous Mogao Caves are one example of such "silk ties," where architecture, painting, music, and other artistic forms interact with each other to create some of the finest art pieces spanning 2,000 years.

Likewise, the contemporary Belt and Road Initiative has not only brought high-speed railways, hydropower stations and highways along the way, but also inevitably pushed artists and intellectuals from different cultures to exchange ideas, learn from each other, and collaborate.

The 2018 Shanghai International Film Festival marked the launch of the Belt and Road Film Week and the Belt and Road Film Festival Alliance, which currently boasts members from 48 countries and 55 film festival institutions.

This column invites them to share their "eye-opening" cultural exchanges.

Belt and Road Film Alliance unites diverse cultures

This year, Dhaka International Film Festival and FAJR International Film Festival, both members of the Belt and Road Film Festival Alliance, set up special sections to host Chinese filmmakers and screen Chinese movies.

It was early morning when we landed in Tehran for the FAJR International Film Festival during the Spring Festival. The festival, which has been in existence since 1982, takes place during the Ten Days of Dawn (Fajr).

It felt like a journey through clouds and snow on New Year's Eve as the taxi drove us from the airport through the dark wind and snow to the hotel's warm dusk.

I traveled to Iran with my film "Absence" for the first time to get to know new people in this new country. We saw and heard each other over this bridge called the "film," despite our cultural differences, from play to life, movie to food, what unites and what divides us.

Iranian viewers were mostly interested in filmmaking-related subjects and how I decided on the film's subject. A scholar in attendance at the film's screening told us that "Absence," a realistic movie, could be watched without subtitles. He connected with the film's poetic aesthetics without any difficulty at all.

As a jury member for the festival, I was a little interested in the movie lineup and was taken aback by the selection's diversity and caliber when I got there.

I worked with several other international jury members, viewed three movies a day, and engaged in really serious conversations. During my week in Tehran, I got to know the Kazakh filmmaker Sergei Dvortsevoy, and I'm happy that we battled hard to win Best Director for "Upon Entry" and Best Film for "Blaga's Lessons." We battled right up to the very end!

Due to the diverse national and cultural backgrounds of the jury, there were unavoidably disparate frameworks for judging each film. We stuck to one concept during our deliberations: If one jury member has a significant disagreement with the verdict, it should be re-examined.

Belt and Road Film Alliance unites diverse cultures
Ti Gong

Chinese filmmaker Wu Lang (second from right) served as a jury at the 42nd FAJR International Film Festival.

"Blaga's Lessons" is the story of a retired teacher who, while being a stern and honest woman, falls victim to a phone scam and becomes penniless. She ends up defrauding others, and after failed attempts, "wakes up," feeling lost and with no clue where to go.

I was impressed by this film, not only because of the superb work of the director, actors, and actresses but also because of the numerous frauds recorded in China in recent years. Many target the elderly. Director Dvortservoy also shared how his grandma fell prey to a swindle.

Our steadfast and passionate beliefs led the jury to reconvene and decide that more people should see this movie and engage in more conversations.

I am grateful to the Belt and Road Film Festival Alliance for giving Chinese films and filmmakers this chance to "go out," and I am looking forward to more Iranian films "coming in."

Cinema can serve as a bridge between cultures, opening up new opportunities for global connectivity.

(The author is a sculptor-turned director whose debut feature "Absence" premiered at 2023 Berlin International Festival's showcase Encounters section, wining critical acclaims.)

Special Reports