Frank Scheffer: My Experience in China 2008
Source:CCD-Workstation Workshop Author:Frank Scheffer Date: 2008-07-05 Size:
Between the 1st of may and the 5th of May 2008 a documentary workshop was held at the CCD Workstation in Beijing, China. The workshop was organized by the independent Chinese filmmaker Wu Wenguang who invited me to join him in working with the participants.

 Frank Scheffer

Between the 1st of may and the 5th of May 2008 a documentary workshop was held at the CCD Workstation in Beijing, China. The workshop was organized by the independent Chinese filmmaker Wu Wenguang who invited me to join him in working with the participants. A group of 72 young Chinese documentary-makers from different regions of China came to participate in the workshop. It turned out to be one of the greatest experiences in my life.

A SHORT HISTORY

One afternoon, in the autumn of 2007, my friend, the great Indian filmmaker Mani Kaul phoned me and asked me if I wanted to be a jury –member of the Mumbai Documentary Festival in India in the beginning of februari 2008. He asked me to accept the invitation because that would be a good opportunity to see each other again. I never accept jury-memberships because I’m always to busy making films. But this time I thought it would be a great chance to see my friend Mani Kaul.

After some flight delays I arrived in Mumbai a couple of hours to late and I joined the jury-members at the end of their lunch. There was only one person smoking so I decided to go and sit with him and I started a conversation. The person I started to talk to and smoke with was Wu Wenguang and that conversation as a matter of fact never stopped. Immediately I felt a deep connection with him as if he was a brother that I hadn’t seen for a long time. Soon I realized that I had accepted Mani Kaul’s invitation not only to see him but also to meet Wu Wenguang.

Together with Wu Wenguang’s girlfriend, the very special dance-choreographer Wen Hui, we spent a week together talking about many things, often until the late night. And all the time I was surprise how well we understood each other althought we are coming from such different cultural backgrounds. It must have something to do that the nature of our hearts are connected and that we are sensitive being part of the very same nature that connects us all in the world. In our case this resulted in a friendship and brotherhood that I hope will continue infinitely. One word: marvellous!

THE WORKSHOP

Wu Wenguang invited me to the CCD Workstation in Beijing for a small retrospective of my films and to join him in the documentary workshop that would take place only two and a half month later. Immediately I said YES! I was pleasantly surprised by the very positive reactions of the Chinese audience on my films since they deal with difficult Western Modern music.

But I was even more surprised by the enthusiasm of the participants of the workshop. A lot of these young filmmakers were very intelligent, talented and very motivated to make documentaries. Wu Wenguang and I spent several days from 10 in the morning until 4 the next morning, day after day, working with them and even after the workshop finished they wanted to continue to know more. The honesty in which Wu Wenguang was communicating with the participants made a deep impression on me and it inspired me to say what I was thinking and feeling about the films of the participants. This was for me a big relief since I experience a lot of superficial motivations and attitudes were I come from in the West. I got very much energy out of this experience and I’m looking very much forward to continue it.

4 older participants that came from small villages throughout China especially impressed me. These villagers are making feature-lenght documentaries about their own villages. In my opinion the villagers documentaries are very interesting because the results provoke a discussion about the future of documentary filmmaking in general. In my opinion they are able to create a true and honest documentary vocabulary with moments of pure poetry that equals the greatest moments in the history of documentary filmmaking

MY FASCINATION FOR CHINA

From a young age I was always fascinated by China and I read a lot of books about Chinese culture and philosophy. The generosity and friendliness of the Chinese people has made a deep impression on me since I visited China for the first time in 1997. I never felt exotic about it but instead a place that I could have also been born in. Now I find myself in a position to continue my ‘godfather’ Joris Ivens’s great tradition of the documentary making in China. I feel that as a very important responsibility. It is a matter of giving and taking. I would like to make a documentary about the identity of the Chinese People. But the way I would like to do that is give back all my experience as a documentary filmmaker to the young Chinese documentary makers. I would like to dedicate my heart to China for the coming years together with my brother Wu Wenguang.

[Editor] Mark Lee

    Artintern