The Incident goes to Beijing
Jane Linfoot (centre) at a Q&A during the Beijing International Film Festival
Jane Linfoot shares the unique experience of screening her debut feature The Incident in competition at the Forward Future section of the Beijing International Film Festival.
Touchdown in Beijing. Beijing International Film Festival banners line the criss-crossing highways. Skyscrapers clutter the skyline, a washed-out palette, uniform look, cast in a permanent haze.
A glimpse of the Beijing Film Academy campus, where I’ll be staying, a quick turnaround, and I’m clambering into another taxi, heading off to the British Council and BFI ‘UK On Screen’ event at the China Film Archive.
I catch up with some of the British delegation at the UK film reception. I feel myself starting to fade, but Macbeth is screening so I battle the jet lag. It has a profound impact on me, my second viewing, and it marks this evening as a memorable one – I am in Beijing on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, and am enthralled by Kurzel’s innovative, cinematic adaptation.
A morning spent wandering through the narrow alleyways of one of many characterful Beijing Hutongs.
Grab late lunch with Joan, my Chinese translator, back at the academy canteen, food is superb.
Joan is 24, a volunteer translator at the festival, studying linguistics at the nearby ‘Normal University’ - and she shares her experiences with me. Although passionate about her academic life, she opens up to feeling a deep sense of loneliness, and concern about how life will be for her, and her classmates when they leave the safe confines of the university.
She tells me there’s a stigma around women who are educated to PhD level in China, many believing it’s not something that is compatible with family life. I offer my advice, feeling protective of her kind soul and bright mind. An abiding memory I’m sure will be the special cultural exchange this trip is providing me with.
Evening: The Incident screens in the projection hall, with superb facilities. Having sat through a few films here, it strikes me that the local audience are diligent, receptive, even if they struggle to comprehend a film they don’t give up trying.
A Q&A follows the screening. Derwin, studying film criticism at the Academy, poses the questions, Joan translates. I am asked about themes, stylistic choices, and to expand on the meaning behind the visual metaphors. The Q&A is opened up to the audience.
A mature, smartly dressed Chinese man poses the final question – I wait for the translation before I can share in the humour that’s tickled the audience …‘What do you think of Karl Marx, and his theory of class struggle?’ I join in the laughter.
The gentleman comes to find me at the end of the screening, presenting me with a Mao Zedong badge, and asks for my contact details!
A moment that ensures The Incident screening at the Beijing International Film Festival will never be forgotten!
Today I explore the epic world heritage site that is the Forbidden City, with my new Israeli friends, screenwriter and director Guy Meirson, and his wife Noa, a dynamic duo.
A Chinese boy looks back at the immense square we have just passed through. Turning to us, he runs his finger across his throat, before omitting a belly laugh…
A reminder, just before we stare in awe and wonder at the ancient emperors palace residence, that the uninvited were brutally executed in this square!
The leader of the film Scademy, and Academy students invite the visiting filmmakers for a celebratory supper, a traditional Chinese hotpot, delicious.
We finish up the evening watching Guy’s film, Hitorerut a poetic study of loss, set in Galilee.
With the Forward Future section of the festival being selected and co-ordinated by the Beijing Film Academy, it’s been a great opportunity to experience what life is like for the students studying at this prestigious institution. Notable alumni include Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou.
I have a final interview with post grad student Derwin, for the Academy journal, and a rigorous discussion opens up between us. We both have strong, sometimes opposing views. I’m challenged about my film not being commercial, and how this could result in failure.
‘To explore what is inside of me I must take risks, if that means ‘failing’, so be it.’ No translation needed, Derwin and Joan simultaneously applaud – we have a shared understanding as the interview, and my incredible trip draw to a close.
More info on The Incident below and on the film's Facebook page.