Cinema | Students finding inspiration, mentorship in local filmmakers

Young Macau filmmakers

Student filmmakers who will have their projects screened at the Cinematheque Passion’s student film festival this month say that more established local directors are an influence on their work. Local filmmakers Tracy Choi, Emily Chan and Mike Ao Ieong are among those inspiring – or in some cases actively mentoring – the so-called ‘new wave of Macau cinema.’

The students are participating in the Future Roads — Cross-Strait cum Hong Kong and Macao College Student Film Festival 2018, organized by Cinematheque Passion, which seeks to bring together young filmmakers from mainland China, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan for an educational exchange.

A total of 27 films will be screened at the festival, some of which have previously received awards at other film festivals. They range in topic from science fiction to romance and from environmental issues to studies of familial relationships, with “all of the stories very close to our daily lives,” according to Cinematheque Passion.

Organizers say the main purpose of the festival is to connect young filmmakers from across the greater China region and help them to explore ways to further their education in the film sector. But it also serves as a good platform for secondary school students interested in studying film or television at university.

“It’s important to give young filmmakers [students] a chance to explore what is going on in other parts [of China] in terms of film education,” said Rita Wong, chief operating officer of Cinematheque Passion. “In Macau, we do not yet have our own film school, but there are many people with a passion to make a career in film. There are still many independent filmmakers and freelancers exploring this field.”

“We have a lot of people going overseas to study film. And this [festival] gives people a chance to discover places for them to continue their studies. In this way, it is an exchange program. It creates a dialogue and an exchange at the festival,” she explained.

At a press conference for the festival held yesterday, several student filmmakers agreed that film studies at Macau’s tertiary education institutions remain underdeveloped, with the majority of budding directors usually opting to study media or communications courses.

Pun Chi Cheng, whose Cyberland explores the differences between our online personas and human reality, told the media that local universities are lacking specialized courses for filmmaking.

It is an opinion shared by Kitty Wu In Teng, who graduated this year from the University of Macau with a communications degree. She said that the universities in the MSAR are not able to equip young filmmakers with all the skills they need.

Ng Ion Chong, who recently graduated with a multimedia major from the Macao Polytechnic Institute, said that he plans to continue his studies in order to build a more solid education base and advance in his filmmaking career.

But the student filmmakers do find inspiration among the so-called ‘new wave’ of Macau film, which has seen the likes of Tracy Choi, Emily Chan, Mike Ao Ieong and others join some of the world’s biggest names at the annual International Film Festival and Awards held each December.

Ieong Hoi Tong’s 10-minute short Our Age is a reflection of the simpler times of the 1990s when the “sense of human warmth and spirit of neighborly assistance” was more noticeable in Macau. A fourth-year student at the Macao Polytechnic Institute, Ieong says she was mentored by award-winning Tracy Choi, who provided advice on how to shoot the large-scale production.

Kitty Wu’s 404 Not Blue tells the story of several high school students on a mission to find a blue sky in a place where the sky is always grey. She says that her 25-minute environmentally-lucid film was made because of “the impressions left by our dreams.” Wu also told the media that she was inspired by one of her teachers, local filmmaker Mike Ao Ieong, who taught her that movies can be more creative than she had previously imagined.

The eight-day festival starts Saturday afternoon with two sessions of the opening gala where eight films handpicked by each of the participating universities and colleges will be screened. Student filmmakers and educational instructors will attend the opening gala to share their views with the audience. The festival runs until December 2 with screenings almost every day, and with subtitles in Chinese and English.

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