27-year-old Chinese director wins best short film award at Cannes
Published: May 29, 2022 06:49 PM
Chinese director Chen Jianying has won the Golden Palm Award for Short Film <em>The Water Murmurs</em> at the 75th Cannes Film Festival on May 28, 2022.

Chinese director Chen Jianying has won the Golden Palm Award for Short Film The Water Murmurs at the 75th Cannes Film Festival on May 28, 2022. Photo: web

Twenty-seven-year-old Chinese director Chen Jianying won the Golden Palm Award for Short Film The Water Murmurs at the 75th Cannes Film Festival on Saturday. The work from the Gen-Z director is the third Chinese short film that won at Cannes.

Following an acceptance speech at the awards ceremony, Chen also expressed her gratitude in Chinese: "I want to thank my motherland, which inspired me to give birth to the idea in the first place."

"There is a deep connection between me and this poetic and affectionate land. I cannot feel this connection anywhere else," Chen added.

The 15-minute film, featuring Annabel Yao as lead female character, was produced by Chinese studio Tian Hao Entertainment, which was dipping its toe in the short film waters for the first time. The film is set in a riverside town and takes place as a meteorite is about to hit the Earth and trigger the eruption of underwater volcanoes. As citizens flee the town fearing the risk of floods, the main character Niannian decides to bid farewell to her childhood friend the day before her departure. As she encounters people on the road, her memories connected to this small town grow clearer.

The director shot the film in Yibin, a city in Southwest China's Sichuan Province with strong local flavor.

For Chen, the film was her way to express Chinese-style romanticism to the world.

"When the power of nature stands in front powerless human beings, what we can do?" Chen told the Sanlian Life Week Magazine in an interview, revealing that the COVID-19 pandemic was the inspiration for the film. 

According to the magazine's comment on Chen and the film, the young director's pursuit of aesthetics and a determined directing style made the film a success. The film is filled with the director's feelings of contradictions, loneliness, intuition and love. 

Previous Chinese films that won the honor were A Gentle Night by Qiu Yang at the 70th Cannes film Festival and All the Crows in the World by Tang Yi at the 74th Cannes.

"Multiple wins shows international recognition of young Chinese's creativity and aesthetic tastes," Shi Chuan, vice chairman of the Shanghai Film Association, shared his view with the Global Times.

"It is no surprise to me that young Chinese directors can win prizes at Cannes. Because as an international film festival that encourages global film development, it is supposed to embrace creators from different backgrounds and cultures. To this point, all it cares about is what the story is about, not one's nationality or race," Ma Aiyuan, an indie filmmaker in Chengdu, told the Global Times. 

"Talking about a 'breakthrough,' I think we should focus on how Chinese narratives and Chinese creators' sensibilities - such as a sense of home, family, or nostalgic memories for a community - have become increasingly intriguing to Western audiences. Many Chinese directors, like Bi Gan, have won international applause not because they are Chinese, but because their films are Chinese," Ma noted.

But as China becomes less and less mysterious to the West, the country's films will have as easy of a time winning awards as they once did, Shi noted.

"What we can focus more on now is how to bring these short films that have won international honors to the Chinese market, for example, setting up a foundation that invests in turning short films into feature films. These are the issues we should think about next," said Shi.