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Tibet film a mirror to a remote world's anxieties

Updated: 2015-02-05 12:00
By Niu Yue in New York (China Daily USA)

Tibet could reflect global anxieties about civilizations and the crisis of faith, said a Chinese film director who has just won an Oscar nomination.

Hu Wei, with his workButter Lamp, or La Lampe au Beurre de Yak, has been nominated for an Academy Award for Short Film - Live Action.

The 15-minute film is about a Tibetan photographer shooting portraits for local Tibetans in a remote nomadic area. Locals took portrait photos in front of different backgrounds.

The winners will be announced at the 87thAcademy Awards on Feb 22 in Hollywood, California.

The film has "spellbinding and poetic simplicity. Traversing hundreds of miles of geography and spanning generations of time without leaving one central location, this film functions as a profound mediation on the practice and effects of image making," commented American Film Institute.

The production was done with a camera in a fixed position. Actors and actresses, all locally recruited, came and left in groups, during which other stories occurred, reflecting the penetration by modernity of the world's highest plateau.

A local official asks residents to prepare for a visit from a work group building a "new socialist countryside". Newlyweds sport a Western jacket and wedding dress and ride a Honda motorcycle.

Butter Lamp"offers an insightful comment on the effects of globalization and technology and the assimilation of Tibetan culture by the Chinese and the Western world, where the Tibetans must struggle for their identity while being pushed ever more towards a peripheral position," wrote film critic Ren Zelen.

"The anxieties of civilizations and the crisis of faith is not only in Tibet, but also in other parts of China, France and the United States," said Hu. "It is everywhere."

"So, the film isn't just about Tibetans," said Hu. "It's about all contemporary human beings. I don't expect my intentions or aesthetic expressions to be fully recovered by viewers. If my film were to deliver something, that would be to get out of the pursuit of truth of absolute rationality."

Butter Lampis his third film, and has been shown in more than 300 film festivals around the world, winning some 70 awards for Hu.

"To a film, awards are a great form of encouragement, but the director's efforts cannot be measured by their academic or economic success," Hu said.

The 31-year old director has avoided the media spotlight, and unlike many other Oscar nominees, his publicity has only recently started.

Born in 1983, Hu has been leading a nomadic style. After graduating from Beijing Normal University in 2006, he spent two years writing films.He studied at different institutions in France, including La Fmis, Beaux-arts de Paris and Le Fresnoy. After that, he lived and worked between France and China.

He is now in Rome, preparing for an exhibition there in February with two of his paintings and an anthropology documentary about East Cameroon, and he will make another experimental film in June.

Only one Chinese film has won an Academy Award as a short film. Ruby Yang'sThe Blood of Yingzhou District, a US-China joint production and the 2006 winner for Documentary Short, was about orphans who lost their parents to AIDS.

Lu Huiquan in New York contributed to this story.

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