Oscar-winning director Malcolm Clarke calls for more authentic Chinese stories

By Wang Yiming
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, August 21, 2022
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British filmmaker Malcolm Clarke, who also serves as a jury member for the top prize of the 12th Beijing International Film Festival, talks to Chinese filmmakers and movie-goers, Aug. 18, Beijing. [Photo by Wang Yiming/China.org.cn]

There's a tremendous amount of misunderstanding about ordinary Chinese people, British filmmaker Malcolm Clarke said, noting that he wants to show the rest of the world the humanity of the Chinese people. Moreover, he called on more people to film the real China.

The two-time Oscar winner for best short documentary made these remarks at a documentary workshop on Aug. 18 during the 12th Beijing International Film Festival. He also served as a jury member for the festival's top prize – the Tiantan Award.

Malcolm Clarke has made films in more than 80 countries around the world. Since 2013, he has focused his lens on China and produced many documentaries on the country, including "Better Angles" and "A Long Cherished Dream."

"When I make a film about China, some people automatically assume I must be taking money from the Chinese government," Clarke said, clarifying that he is "not interested."

"I will be destroyed professionally if I make pro-Chinese propaganda, but there's so much good happening here, and there's so much good in the Chinese people. And that's what I want to show the world," he said.

The director said he decided to stay in China to make more films because he found that the "awful demonization of China, which has happened in the last 10 to 15 years, is terrible."

Talking about why the "demonization" happened, he remarked that some politicians in the West make a great fuss about how China is threatening the Western way of life because they think China is threatening to take over the West's global dominance.

In 40 years, China transformed its society, he said, adding that China is now a technological power, military power, and economic power, and that frightened a lot of people in the West. Furthermore, he said there's never been an Asian country that has been a global leader, and China is becoming a global leader.

"And also, because we don't understand who you are," Clarke said when talking to the Chinese audience, "only after 10 years, I'm beginning to understand who you are and what China is."

While sharing rules and techniques to make better documentaries, he stressed that the essence of a powerful film is something that communicates authentic emotion.

"I want to show to the rest of the world the kind of humanity of the Chinese people, and the best way to do that is to show that the Chinese people aren't this strange race of people who the rest of the world need to be afraid of or need to hate or need to be in competition with. The Chinese people like to laugh, cry, love, and sometimes they like to hate," Clarke said.

"In other words, they are people just like any other people from any other place in the world," he added.

Clarke also underlined the importance of casting. "I'm not really interested in Chinese heroes because when you go into any Chinese village, and you get to know the people, you realize that there are heroes everywhere. Those are the stories I think that will resonate best with foreign audiences."

In his films, he worked to show who the Chinese are through authentic feelings and authentic stories of ordinary people.

China is not good at telling its own stories,Clarke said. He encouraged the Chinese filmmakers who have the power to get a camera to go out into the world, the Chinese world, to show people what Chinese life is like, what Chinese aspirations are like, and what Chinese hopes are like.

"We have to continue to make better and better films that represent the people of China and what has been achieved in this country,"Clarke said.

Images are incredibly powerful, he underscored. "Don't inflate, don't exaggerate, just tell the truth, show the truth."

If there are enough people to do that, Clarke said, "I have great faith because I think if you tell the truth, finally, the truth will win."

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