The 2008 Summer Olympics will punctuate three decades of development and test China's global legitimacy. They've already transformed the way millions of people think and live. Seattleite and Fulbright researcher Daniel Beekman brings you Beijing.
April 3, 2008 4:23 PM
Posted by Daniel Beekman
As the screen flashed unsettling images, ten rows of dark-suited bureaucrats stiffened, frowned and laughed nervously.
The awards ceremony for 2007's best amateur Olympic shorts had begun (see 'Olympic films - part one' for more coverage).
Coordinated by an cultural clearinghouse in Beijing, the '3-Minute Olympic DV & Cartoon Competition' - now in its third cycle - performed an unexpected function last year. Rather than broadcast Olympism to China's masses (as intended), the contest brought academics and officials face-to-face with a new generation's hopes and fears.
Most amateur film makers here are 'reform babies' - heirs to a blossoming Chinese economy and a pressurized post-Mao society. They've been asked to 'embrace the Olympics' and promote President Hu Jintao's twin watchwords: harmony and stability.
Yet change is what China's twenty-somethings know best. Buildings rise and fall every day where they live. New lifestyles are born. Trends come and go.
They've no quarrel with Beijing's Olympic slogan 'One World, One Dream.' But their worlds continue to heave and split. Their dreams aren't fully formed. Their craft - digital video - is foreign itself, and long on potential.
The second-annual 3-Minute awards were held last November, in conjunction with an international forum on Olympic education. Some of the top films stick to conventional themes: Tang Dynasty gowns, smiling peasant children and Beijing's five Fuwa mascots - the 'Olympic Friendlies' (see 'Olympic films - part three' coming soon).
Others, however, take risky turns and avant-garde twists.
In one film, an angular skateboarder zips down computer and amplifier wires. In another, Michael Jordan takes his younger self to the rim. From interpretive dance to clay-mation and alienation, the shorts kept Beijing's Olympic educators guessing.
Ultimately, a third yearlong competition was launched and those present - young and old - cheered.
Back in January, Blogging Beijing featured two films from 2006 and one from 2007. "Dreaming," re-posted below, follows a dancer from China's past into modernity. Minzu feng - 'Nationality wind' fuses today and yesterday. And Wo zui xihuan... - 'I most like' asked elementary students a simple question.
Here are three more award-winning shorts, representing the competition's quirkier side.
In Kuafu zhuiri - 'Chasing the sun' a mythic hero flies skyward. He fails once, fails twice...and from his failure, the world as we know it is born (end omitted).
In Jinbi shilide aoyun guanjun - 'Jailhouse Olympic champion,' a baby left alone finds itself running track for China (end omitted).
In Dui zhan - 'To battle,' a uniformed high-schooler goes to war with a robot in his apartment kitchen.
In Zhu meng - 'Dreaming,' a man from times long gone wakes up in a modern hutong and discovers Olympic Beijing.
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