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March 27, 2010

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Online flicks compete

A kung fu bunny defeats a villainous dog and a freedom-loving tomato escapes the salad bowl in two short videos created by Chinese Netizens.

They are among 5,585 entries for the 2010 Tudou Video Festival, a competition to discover and support talented Internet film makers. Some call it China's Sundance Film Festival, after the American event dedicated to independent film makers.

Online voting is underway to select 200 finalists. Voting closes in early April.

Veteran directors, scriptwriters and actors will be winners in various categories to be honored on April 17. The most promising film maker will receive a scholarship to the prestigious French Film Institute. Talented film makers will receive funding, training and technical support.

The festival, which started in 2008, aims to assess grassroots online video culture and to recognize and promote the best.

The submitted videos, up to 10 minutes long, address an array of topics, ranging from nostalgic childhood memories to young people's confusion about pressured life and love nowadays.

The jury panel will be headed by Ning Hao, whose 2006 low-budget comedy film "Crazy Stone" became immensely popular in an age of big-budget spectaculars.

"Original Internet videos not only entertain me but also provide inspiration for my films," Ning says. "No matter how ordinary these film makers are, many of them will inject new blood into the domestic film industry."

"Every ambitious and creative Netizen has the chance to be a director of his own life," says Wang Wei, CEO and founder of

The festival will award the Golden Tudou prize and awards for best short-film, best director, best actor, best production team, most creative. To encourage video art on campus, the festival will honor university film makers.

Deng Ke, one of the winners last year, received funding from for his new media interactive comedy series "Mr Lei." This short-film series generated good advertising profits from its premiere.

"From this rewarding experience I have improved my skills in script writing and shooting," says Deng, now a contract director with China Film Corp. "This online platform has turned our film-making dream into reality. It will ignite our enthusiasm for continuous, lifelong learning in this field."

China's creation of original online videos is entering a new stage of development. Many video directors are grassroots Netizens without professional film-making background in college, but their enthusiasm and creativity is expected to invigorate Chinese cinema.

Aware of this potential, will invest 100 million yuan (US$14.64 million) in Web content this year. But lack of an effective and stable profit-making mechanism presents a major problem.

"These days a lot of Chinese video sharing Websites are not profitable," says Wang, CEO of "What we need is an integrated 'ecological circle' to make profit." may charge for some videos this year and make more use of product placement in its original Internet dramas, according to observers.

Creating live-action, complicated online films present financial and technical problems.

Famous Shanghai-based scriptwriter Ning Caishen says he will collaborate with to create four to six online series.

"I have found many ingenious and funny animated video works on the Internet," Ning says, "but due to limits of investment and equipment, Internet live-action films and series are still in their infancy, although they have wonderful ideas."

Tudou Video Festival

Netizens can vote for their favorite works; 200 entries will enter the finals.


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