Chinese animator Du Pengpeng shines a light on inequality in traditional Chinese culture with animated film

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/14 19:43:39

Promotional material for Cage Photo: Incgmedia

Promotional material for Cage Photo: Incgmedia

"Talking about classic animation, what springs to mind are some classic icons such as Mickey Mouse, Superman, Detective Conan and Totoro," Du Pengpeng, a Chinese animator who made it into the finals for the Student Academy Awards, shared his opinion about the current state of animation with the Global Times.

"A successful icon should be the one that is influential and impressive, but when it comes to China, I can only think of a few."

With his short film Cage, Du Pengpeng captured the attention of judges from Disney and Pixar during the 2016 Student Academy Award competition, an annual contest for college and university filmmakers held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to support and encourage excellence in filmmaking at the collegiate level.

Dreams of freedom

"Life is liberty in a cage. Cage represents a situation that is filled with a lot of constraints, or a habit or an addiction that is hard to get rid of," Du wrote in the introduction to his film on online video platform Incgmedia.

"This project was made to present a traditional Chinese visual style to audiences. Additionally, Cage tries to inspire viewers to recollect and consider what the meaning of life means to them as individuals."

Less than five minutes long, the short film focuses on a series of dreams that a Chinese woman in feudal China is having. In her dreams, she is free as she turns into a golden phoenix or dances happily. However, when she awakes, she finds herself facing a cold reality in which traditional culture demands she serve at the whims of a man.

In the comments below the video, many netizens have expressed their love for this animated film.

"This is absolutely stunning! Every frame is a work of art. I love the story behind it too. It's so touching and inspiring!" netizen Serafima Serafimova commented.

"First of all, what a great work. I think you choose everything perfectly like the woman and the colors. What you made here can be watched so many times," Mohammad Javad Hadian noted.

According to Du, the animation was completely a labor of love, not something made for commercial purposes.

"I love women, I think they are beautiful," Du said, noting that his grandmother provided the inspiration for the film.

"She raised me, we had a good time for 20 years, but she passed away a few years ago, which hurt deeply. It was then that I decided to make an animated film based on my grandma."

Born during a time when China's feudal culture still had an overwhelming hold on the country, Du's grandma had to deal with many constraints, just like the woman in the film.

Cultural context

"In my opinion, Chinese animation doesn't use traditional culture as its basis. The only stylish film is Lotus Lantern," Du noted, mentioning the 1999 animated fantasy film based on Chinese folklore.

"But even Lotus Lantern just made use of Chinese visual elements, it lacked a good cultural foundation."

With this in mind, when Du decided to make his animated film, he set out to include both typical Chinese visual elements and the right cultural context.

"I noticed a lot of inequality between men and women in feudal times and I tried to convey this through my work," Du insisted.

It's easy to see this inequality represented in the work. In one scene the woman lays on a giant plate and is tossed around like a piece of food by a giant pair of chopsticks, which represent the patriarchy. This scene, according to Du, reflects the relationship between men and women in traditional Chinese culture.

"Women need to obey men, have babies and do all the housework because they are treated as property."

Du emphasized that he wanted to look at things from a woman's perspective in the film to see how they view and think about men.

 "I have something of a split personality. I can feel what women really want by imaging myself as a woman, but I am actually a man in real life," Du joked.

Newspaper headline: A ‘Cage’ for women

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