Into the unknown

By Raymond Zhou ( China Daily ) Updated: 2013-10-30 07:35:18

Into the unknown

Microfilms will be coming shortly to a screen near you

A recent phenomenon is the level of interest from various government agencies, which have launched all kinds of microfilm festivals and awards, adding up to a total of more than 300 and growing at last count. Some of these operations dole out prizes while others also invest in the production of projects that purport to publicize ideas that represent the values endorsed by these organizations. For example, many local governments use microfilms and their competition to promote the images of the places, which is said to benefit local tourism. This kind of work comes with the same trappings as advertiser-supported projects in that they provide emerging filmmakers with opportunities to work and hone their craft but at the same time may restrict their realm of imagination.

We may not know what will become of microfilms as a category, but there is no doubt it is booming. What is murky is the regulation for it, which so far is made up of only one directive so informal it is titled a "notice", issued jointly by CNNIC and SAPPRFT (the State Administration of Press Publication, Radio, Film and Television).

Essentially, it passes the task of censoring to the websites. Some call it "loose regulation" and some "self-regulation". There are 608 organizations that have obtained licenses from SAPPRET for Internet audio-video programming as of March 2013. Unlike feature films, it is not practical to require each microfilm project to submit for approval of the script and the final edit. So, website staff have to act as guards so to speak.

This worries a lot of people who call for an end to the chaos. But Cui Baoguo, a professor with the Journalism School of Tsinghua University, says the absence of tight regulation is what gives the category hope. "When the government gives too much care and support for a category, it is usually doomed. Look at animation, which is receiving so much blood infusion from all levels of government. Microfilms have more chances of flourishing mainly because it is a grassroots movement."

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