First Time Film Makers is an ongoing initiative by Discovery Channel in Asia-Pacific to support the development of non-fiction filmmakers in the region. In early 2004, Discovery Channel launched the First Time Film Makers program in China for a second consecutive year and offered emerging Chinese filmmakers the chance to showcase their talents and gain experience and recognition on a regional level. Of the hundreds of entries, this year's six winning films were chosen based on the originality, quality and strength of the idea submitted and their relevance to the theme of Inspiring stories about the unique Chinese way of life in a rapidly globalizing world. Each 30-minute documentary tells an inspiring tale about the unique way of life in today's China, and the challenges that the country and her billion-strong population are facing in the 21st century.
First Time Film Makers: China 21 Program Descriptions
CONFUCIUS CAN COOK, Director: Zhao Liang
This documentary centres on two QuFu chefs as they prepare for the 2555th birthday celebrations of Confucius held in his birth city. These two men are descended from 12 generations of chefs whose families have all served in the kitchens of the QuFu Confucian Mansion. The documentary tells of the chefs' struggles as they strive to uphold and hold true to the legacy of ancient Confucian banquet cuisine, in an era where many restaurants have compromised and adapted ancient recipes to suit the more contemporary tastes of locals and tourists.
CHINESE CHAPLINS, Director: Zhu Chunguang
CHINESE CHAPLINS captures the triumphs and sorrows of the 300 street buskers who have to "sing for their supper" every night on Ji Qing Street, Wuhan. As the cityscape changes with the pressures of commercialisation, the livelihoods of these street performers are threatened. The documentary tells their tales through four of the most popular "heavenly kings" of Ji Qing Street – Raj, a chaplinesque vaudeville performer; Lao Tong Cheng, a self-styled singer-composer who flirts with his bushy eyebrows; 'Old Sparrow', a gravely-voiced er-hu player with strange facial expressions; and a singer known as 'Cucumber', whose trademark is the cucumber he wields in place of a microphone.
MAN WITH A DV CAMERA, Director: Wu Hao
In this documentary, viewers learn about how the global lifestyle trend of DV (Digital Video) filmmaking has managed to reach even the far flung town of Jin De. Helmed by the local cultural cadre-turned-"farmer-director" Zhou Yuan Qiang, the villagers have made and starred in various propaganda films and martial arts films, shot during breaks from their traditional jobs of farming and vase-making. Set against the backdrop of the 110th anniversary of cinema, the documentary captures the globalisation effects of DV filmmaking and the influence of the media on the villagers.
BEIJING CALLING, Director: Wu Hao
This documentary highlights the old Beijing art of street yelling, a precious element of China's oral culture and heritage. Meet Zhang Hong, who, for decades, has hawked his wares by yelling through the winding streets of Beijing's old "hutong" courtyard houses. His unique calls drew the attention of potential buyers, each traditional rhyming ditty belted out in a colourful fashion. Today, as more and more hutongs are demolished to make way for a city that is rapidly revamping itself for the 2008 Olympics, peddlers like Zhang Hong are pushed to adapt their skills to compete with TV commercials and billboards in this media-driven age.
TOY SOLDIERS, Director: TuoBa Zhou
Collecting stamps, foreign currency and the like are common hobbies. But what about military uniforms? TOY SOLDIERS reveals an unusual group of hobbyists in China, who fervently scour the world for army gear and other military paraphernalia through the ever-expanding virtual world of the internet. Ranging from doctors and engineers to teachers, this "band of brothers" maintain dedicated websites, produce their own short films, and even take part in wargames that are set up in specialty stores. Learn all about this curious past time, which goes to the extent of organised military balls in Shanghai and Beijing where enthusiasts masquerade as military officers from all over the world.