The story appears on

Page B2

September 2, 2011

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » Art and Culture

Online videos next frontier

ONLINE videos are hot, especially since the boundaries are blurring between what you can see in film, TV, on cell phones and on the Internet. Xu Wei picks up on the latest offering from the Chopstick Brothers.

You used to need a film degree, a lot of experience, backers and money to be a film director - and by that time you could have gray hair - but today there's a rush of talented people making online videos that are powerful, creative, fun and blessedly short.

It takes considerable skill to tell a compact visual short story that is compelling, artistic and has a beginning, a middle and an end. Not everyone can manage, and that includes big-screen film directors.

In China, online videos are all the rage and online film makers are known for their youth, enthusiasm, creativity and inter-connectivity with Internet users.

Among the most acclaimed video directors are the Beijing-based Chopsticks Brothers - Xiao Yang and Wang Taili, who are not blood brothers but soulmates.

Following the huge popularity of "Old Boys" last year (high school friends' nostalgia for their post-1980s youth), they have another winner in their latest short video "The Winner."

The 30-minute film, which was released on in late April, has been viewed tens of millions of times. It's about a Chinese man suffering a mid-life crisis and losing his moral compass in a high-pressure society. His sense of honesty and family responsibility have lapsed and he pursues money and social status, at the cost of love and friendship. After he nearly dies in a traffic accident, he rethinks his life, sees the error of his ways and again becomes a loving husband and friend.

The protagonist muses "what does it mean to be a rich man? It means that when you have money, then you are a man." At the conclusion of the video, a message appears: "When we learn to treasure simple happiness, then we will be winners in life."

According to Xiao, who wrote the script and directs part of the video, the work provides a lot of food for thought.

"Like most white-collar professionals, I used to be confused, too pragmatic and unable to find inner peace and tranquillity," he recalls. "But when I think how I would handle today's complications and problems if I were still a teenage student, I find that the complex problems become simple. Today we are losing the ability to see things simply."

Many Internet users have praised the film's artistry and nostalgia, the cinematography, suspense, fantasy and back-to-the-future elements.

One viewer "kingwould" comments online: "After I watched, I had a lump in my throat and my eyes were wet. I thought of my mother, and of how happy I once was with my wife. Why did I have to go looking for a mistress? I just realized that when I was young, happiness was so easy to find."

Some movie lovers are delighted with the emergence of more sincere short movies, instead of tedious blockbusters that lack interesting plots and more concern ancient heroes instead of real people today.

The Chopstick Brothers make films in their spare time.

Xiao, 31, has a full-time job shooting advertisements. He is 11 years younger than Wang, a music producer. In 2005 when Wang asked him to shoot an ad, the two found a great deal in common - Michael Jackson and dedication to making good, noncommercial films. They call themselves the "Chopstick Brothers" because they are very close and one can't be used without the other.

'Old Boys'

Their best-known work is 42-mnute "Old Boys" about youth, dreams and reality. It's based on their own experience and centers on a pair of old high school friends - now a wedding host and barber, both in middle age.

They take part in a talent show and the song they perform reminds them of their student life and aspirations. The song is a reworked Japanese love song, with new lyrics that are more inspirational.

The video contains many nostalgic scenes and items, such as guitars, radio cassette tapes and video games. Although it describes the gap between the ideals of youth and the realities of middle age, the message is that "dreams are the most valuable part of life and become more precious with age."

Xiao and Wang are now working on a new video titled "Father," expected to be released on in November. It's about complicated father-son ties in China. It depicts a man who has deep love for his children, but is very reserved and seldom expresses his affection. It describes boys' worship of their father, their rebellious adolescence and their final understanding and gratitude to their father.

Next year the big-screen version of "Old Boys" will be released. Wang and Xiao say it retains the original nostalgic style of the video film but has a new storyline.

Film industry observers say the creation of original online videos represents a major advance in storytelling, offering great opportunity to imaginative film makers.

These days it is easier to get investment, sponsorship and wide distribution for online videos, and young people are comfortable watching short films on the Internet.

Since August 1, "Red Scarf," an online video by fresh college graduate Xiang Ge, has been praised by viewers who have seen it on, microblogs and It tells Xiang's stories from primary school nearly a decade ago.

The title comes from the red scarves commonly worn by young children, known as young pioneers.

Although the film is seen by some as critical of old-style education, Xiang says he isn't trying to be sarcastic; he just wants to evoke childhood memories.

The appeal of online videos lies in their flexibility, sincerity, creativity and strong connection with viewers, says professor Liu Haibo, a film and TV expert from Shanghai University.

"These original pictures - even without magnificent scenes and star-studded casts - are vibrant and resonate with the audience," he says. "Some innovative Internet videos have also inspired big-screen directors."

Online video makers are expected to add new blood to the domestic film industry, often criticized for its lack of imagination and good plots about ordinary people.

Since 2005, video website has given financial and technical support to more than 400 video makers in China.

"The boundaries between film, TV, cell phones and online videos are becoming increasingly blurred these days," says Wu Qi, vice president of "Original videos will continue to boom because of their interactivity with the audience."


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend