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Chinese documentary wins funding prize

By Angus McNeice in London | China Daily UK | Updated: 2018-06-14 17:19

A documentary in development about a Chinese plastic surgeon who is also a performance artist has won the Whickers Film and TV Funding Award at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival in the United Kingdom. This means its producers will receive 80,000 pounds ($106,700) in prize money to finish it.

The documentary Mirror Mirror on the Wall is being co-produced by Berlin-based DOCDAYS Productions and Hong Kong-based CNEX Foundation. Its director is Sascha Schoberl, a German moviemaker who lives in Beijing.

The film follows a plastic surgeon who seeks to build a large social media following by livestreaming surgical procedures. The surgeon, whose name is secret until post-production, also conducts surgery-themed art performances.

Harriet Armston-Clarke, one of the competition’s judges, said the film provides a critique on the concepts of beauty and fame in the social media age.

“It really gets under the skin of our beauty-obsessed world, putting selfie-culture on the operating table and calling into question the impact this is having on us all — both as individuals and society,” she said.

Schoberl said he sought to reveal how social media has joined the movie and advertising industries in promoting unreasonable beauty standards.

“No matter which country you live in, we all experience the magic mirror,” Schoberl said. “On social media, other people’s lives seem more perfect than our own. Women are prettier, younger and thinner, men are more buff and more successful.”

Schoberl said he has shot 60 percent of the documentary and, with the help of the Whickers funding, he will finish the project.

“China has the most developed social media industry,” Schoberl said. “Social media is the new performance stage. So, this is also a story about modern China. However, the greed for attention is an international phenomenon, and I want this story to be a conversation starter. I want the viewer to reflect on how much power we want to give those ‘likes’.”

The other finalists in the competition were from the Philippines, Japan, Spain and another production from China.

The other documentary from China, Where the Peach is in Bloom, follows the lives of teenagers at a Chinese juvenile reform school. It is being directed by Jiang Chunhua, a graduate student at the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts in Beijing, and is being produced by CNEX Foundation.

Second place in the competition, and a 15,000-pound prize, went to Disappearing Village, a documentary about a sake brewer who tries to reverse the fortunes of a struggling community in rural Japan by starting up an organic rice farm. It is being directed by Japanese moviemaker Megumi Inman and produced by UK-based Sweet Take Studios.

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