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August 2, 2009

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Director alive to new ideas, styles

SHANGHAI native Lin Zhele, considered one of China's most promising young contemporary directors, first forged his name at home with an award-winning short film "Fill Kish" in France in 2005 when he was only 22 years old.

"Fill Kish," which cost less than 1,000 yuan (US$146) to shoot on digital video camera, tells the story of a one-eyed fish who daydreams of killing all the other fish in the aquarium except for his lover.

The short film later earned Lin top prize at the competition hosted by UniFrance - an organization promoting French Films - plus a trip to the Cannes Film Festival where he met many international and Chinese filmmakers.

Heartened by his triumph in the international film arena, Lin, a graduate of the Film & TV Arts and Technology School of Shanghai University, is now an independent director who has been shooting TV commercials and art-house films.

Some of his popular works include the short animation film "Repanda" (image pictured above) and the subsequent "Panda" series which is making passengers' trips by running on the interactive video screens of tens of thousands of taxis in Shanghai.

Q: How did you start your filmmaking career?

A: Well, I once majored in advertising at college. But after a year's study, I found myself more interested in filmmaking, so I just shifted my major into directing. I started making short films and mock TV commercials after persuading my father, who is an avid artist, to buy me a 20,000-yuan film camera. Luckily enough, my works were well-received, encouraging me to produce more films. That's how I started my business.

Q: Did you have any major difficulties in filmmaking in the beginning?

A: No, not really (smiling). I mean, if you're really into something, there are always more solutions than problems. Take myself as an example. In my early years in college when I was still an amateur, I had only a faint idea about how to make a film. One day, I thought I should do odd jobs at film studios where I could learn film techniques and skills. And I did. After years of learning and practicing, I now know most tricks of this trade.

Q: What quality helps you stand out from your peers?

A: I think a lot of personal characteristics shape who and what you are. I am an enthusiastic, persistent and industrious filmmaker who wants to generate as many pioneering ideas and distinctive styles as possible.

Q: Name one or two of your favorite works.

A: "Fill Kish" and "Repanda" are definitely two favorites, not only because they are popular, but also for their playful scripts. I spent days and nights drawing inspiration from everyday life to write a script loaded with humor and depth. I think both are most typical of "Lin-style" films I've made till now.

Q: Talking about film styles, is there anyone who has been a major influence on you?

A: Stanley Kubrick, who is widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative, influential and intriguing directors in cinema. Often characterized by a formal visual style and meticulous attention to detail, his cinematic approach has had a great influence on my own creations.

Q: Are you involved in any new projects?

A: Yes. I'm working on "1/3 Heaven," an 80-minute documentary paying tribute to the victims of the Sichuan earthquake last May. With a camera crew, we visited the hardest-hit areas in Sichuan three times over the past couple of months and recorded the stories of two young girls who both lost their families in the quake. Instead of capturing the mournful moments of their lives, we tried to focus on their strong vitality and optimism in the face of catastrophe.

Q: What would you do if you weren't a director now?

A: Oh, there are lots of things I'd love to try, especially anything involving artistic creativity, such as painting or playing music. I also dream of being a teacher. But all in all, I feel good about what I'm doing now!


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