Sunday, 14 October 2018

September: The Final Months in China

September 2018

School’s back!

 It seemed like a quick flight back home to China. Beijing Capital Airlines has a new route directly from London to Qingdao. Got window seat and filmed the last images for The Sea Hut. My mother was so good with me in England; even though distraught about Pat my brother and his slow recovery from the stroke, she managed to do a final interview which basically has the film tied up.

Got it in the can!


Of course, I still have animation to do, colour, motion, resizing images, subtitles, before I can really say I have finished. Never done till it’s done, and even then we always think of things we could change, add.

Musings on a plane. One drifts between time zones and clouds, and sometimes one country becomes like a meditation. Russia is huge – it takes 6 hours or more to move slowly from East to West, and then dive onto Turkmenistan, curve around, outer, then inner Mongolia, to China.

By this time, and having watched the only four films on offer, I have remade my world, that of my family, friends, Pat can walk and talk again, and old rifts are healed, books are written, new film projects are started, and I am able to finish everything in China that I need and want to, and can come home to be with the family.


Then reality, as I stand in front of 25 third year students talking about experimentation and what I expect of them this semester. It is the first time that I teach a class alone without Wang Ying. It is an experiment, and we will see how well I do with my odd Chinese and the students’ bitty English. We all know each other, we have grown together for 3 years now, so it is not the first time I have them as students. We are used to each other, but as this is a primary class, the task before me is a bit daunting.

Jeanne and Ying

Class one finished very well. We all have a good idea of where we are heading, and let’s hope by next week everyone hands me in an idea. I showed them some of Thin Blue Line with Chinese subtitles; they loved the fact they could shoot something which is not purely observational, the norm in China in film schools.

Back home
Tattoo girl

If I leave next semester, thrn this is the last documentary class I will take. I feel very sad, so much time given, so much learnt. This is why I look for other chances to keep my soul here. One is The Blue Book of Film which finally came out. All those arduous statistics have finally been put into  grids, and printed, and handed to UNESCO,* - 125 pages.

Wang Ying and I got the book yesterday. They want us to continue with them each year, so, no matter where I am in the world, the Internet breaks down barriers. We have finally become a part of their official team. It makes me so proud, it is all part of the incredible Chinese adventure.

The Blue Book of Film


Outside school at West Gate they are pulling down more homes. I met a man who was scavenging; he invited me onto his patch. I found a few treasures. He lived there last month, now he has moved to the new buildings. Is he sad? Not really he says, they were old and falling down. (They, the buildings, are only ten years old!)

Fiber glass is still used in China, wads of it lying around on the street. “It’s normal,” he says. It is too complicated to go into here, so a good film to view is

also applauded here in China. The director is a gentle and warm person. He came two years ago to the indie festival in Qingdao, and with he left us regarding his work as totally outstanding for its achievement and bravery.


Old stairs 
King for a day
Tiny kitchen 
Here's the cups
Jan and man 

Harvest moon cake time around the corner.

29 September 2018

Festive, greedy, the whole of China eating day long and in between sweet cakes filled with so many types of moon cake that it would take an entire blog to write down each one. 

Walking and ambling is the thing to do. The weather is still sweet, the sun waning but strong, and the sea breeze cooling, while the streets of Qingdao are humming happy holiday songs.

Yuen suggested we attempt a walk from the railway station to Old Stone Man, 40 kilometers along the shore during National Day Holiday. After moon harvest festival, the next holiday is one week for National Day, for the new People’s Republic of China. 

Off we head. 9 am meeting, coffee by the pier, and first stop Badaguan, the old German settlement which nestles on the beach. I am not a tour guide, but this is truly one of China’s most sophisticated cities, charming, old style, old buildings protected so much more than in other cities. One can feel the past, walk the past, and on the way one meets the culture like these holiday dancing ladies - and then the peanut picker laying out the nuts to dry in the seaside sun.

Peanuts galore

Falling everywhere are sheets and blankets hanging out to air.

And children carry the Chinese flag, waving it like a precious toy.

Washing line
Boy with a flag

As we get past the half way mark, 20 kilometers, the seascape changes and we turn into a bay, and I thought I was in the south of France. From now on it is small bay after small bay till we reach Old Man Stone. Exhausted, barely able to walk further.

Night falls and the park is lit up with lanterns. Like a mystical land stretching far beyond us.


Beach marriage

Could be France

October 2018

Wake Li and Jinan

Mid-week, Yuan and I are off to Jinan, 3 hours from Qingdao to film Wake Li, a performance artist, filmmaker, painter, rebel and radical, who has been around the art scene since the 70s. I met him two years ago at the Indie festival and was totally beguiled by him.

Today, at 61, he has an Iggy Pop torso, an energy to die for, a 24 year old girl-friend, and is finishing his latest film

On the way to Jinan

We spend 3 days filming in and around Jinan. In his studio, in the grotto where he has sculpted a huge Buddha, and with his parents. It is almost impossible to keep up with Wake Li, and my Chinese is limited for this type of work, but there is something that shines so deep and so differently, the look in his eyes, the way he moves his body, the paint brushes in his hands, his eroticism, a devoted and daring and very young girlfriend. One does not need a language for this. The man who has made fashionable a toilet plunger hat has won my heart.

We shall come back in December with the beginning of a very, very rough-cut and see what we can carve out. He has given me the use of his films, which will be the backbone of the film. Yuan and I are excited, and I am happy to finally be doing my last piece here on a Chinese artist.

Wake Li