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Grand Prix: China Screen d’Or:

The Chinese Mayor by ZHOU Hao

A compelling insight into China’s complex transition from past to future, as Datong’s Mayor Geng Yanbo dares to run his agenda of radical change to the city through the gauntlet of both the people and the political machine.

Made more powerful by an absence of polemic, this film clearly demonstrates the conflict in perceived logic between the authorities and the city’s people who are disadvantaged by the mayor’s plans.  The film’s essence lies in the cooperation offered to the filmmakers by Mayor Geng.  A multi-layered, and of its kind unprecedented, revelation of Chinese political realities.


China Screen Prix d’Argent:

Restoring the Light by Carol LIU

A deftly-told story of two families suffering severe medical problems, and an eye surgeon devoted to assisting those in greatest need.  A film that illuminates the realities among China’s sixty percent rural population, where poverty and hardship are the basics of life.  Filmed and edited with sensitivity and accomplishment, Restoring the Light counterpoints hope with despair, passion with practicality and success with failure.  Here there is no Hollywood ending; here there is real life. A powerful document of everyday courage and determination – one that achieves a superb balance between revelation of fact and powerful emotional impact.


China Screen Prix spécial du Jury:

Magnolia Man by MA Zhidan

This study of one man’s passion to protect a rare, endangered species of the magnolia flower is also an appeal to maintain the diversity of nature, embodying the idea of  “l’Homme en harmonie avec la nature”. It captures main subject Zhu Kaifu’s almost spiritual obsession as he devotes his entire fortune to his task which includes the creation of a botanic garden dedicated to this tree.  Zhu’s powerful personality dominates the documentary from first to last, the film’s relentless pace matching his increasing fervour as he refuses to be thwarted by set-backs and tragedies.  A hymn of praise to an engagement with nature – and to the magnolia flower in all its varieties.

Prix de la Fondation Ségalen:

Blank Lands by Blank Lands Collective

Rarely do we find a story that skilfully integrates a history of little-known lands and peoples, with the inspired work of a man who revealed them. This film follows ethnographic photographer Zhuang Xueben’s explorations through China’s western borderlands in the 1930’s, using words from his travel journal and interviews with knowledgeable analysts including his son. These are expertly interwoven with a filmed recreation of his journey to produce a documentary of high aesthetic values. The role played by the Cultural Revolution in the disappearance of Xueben’s work is just one of the intriguing revelations that make this a film of fascination for people all over the world.

Blank Lands and the Prix de la Fondation Ségalen

This award is named for Victor Ségalen, who in the early twentieth century himself embarked on a voyage of  discovery to distant lands, including China for several years.  Blank Lands has another special connection with France:  in some ways it parallels the work of French photographer Eric Lafforgue and indeed also that of banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn who in1909 embarked on an similarly ambitious project: to create a colour photographic record of, and for, the peoples of the world.


Nick Torrens, Jury President