Beijing Children’s Film Studio


Beijing Children’s Film Studio
(Zhongguo ertong zhipianchang)
The Beijing Children’s Film Studio was the brain-child of Yu Lan (b. 1921), a famous film actress of the 1950s and 1960s. Her acting pedigree includes Lin Family Shop (Lin jia puzi, 1959), Revolutionary Family (Geming jia) and Living in the Flames of War (Liehuo zhong yongsheng, 1965). Her experience in the Cultural Revolution was not happy and, tellingly, this extraordinarily beautiful and talented person made just one more film, in 1974. The Film Studio, which Yu Lan founded on Children’s Day, 1 June 1981, was, unsurprisingly, a work of passionate commitment and professional investment. She has stated that it was founded to transmit moral stability in a time of great change, and many of the films made in the late 1980s and 1990s dealt with divorce, melded families and the pressures of being a single child in the first generation of the one-child policy era. One of the best in this genre was the study of a child who cares for his emotionally distraught mother (Don’t Cry Mummy/Bie ku mama, 1990). The film demonstrated a nuanced understanding of a child protagonist in an adult world, and skilfully employed camera angles and locations to create a child’s perspective on the dark, wet world of marital breakdown in Beijing. Other films revived the theme of schoolchildren and teacher loyalty (Four Schoolmates/Sige xiaohuoban, 1982) or focused on minority themes (Red Elephant/Hongxiang, 1982). Red Elephant is a typical film about minorities insofar as it weaves together a romantic, dare we say infantilized, portrait of a minority people with a quasimythical animal (a similar format is found in animation of the same period—see, for example, Hailibu, 1985).
The studio also brought in female directors as diverse in scope as Peng Xiaolian and Guang Chunlan. The former is one of the few female names that emerged out of the Fifth Generation (film directors), while the latter made her name as a minority director with a keen interest in children’s drama. The Studio has been underfunded for most of its existence and is currently trying to make alliances with external production houses in an attempt to widen its creative scope and its appeal to the new televisually sophisticated audience. This initiative produced Crazy Rabbit, the story of a real and breathing computer virus shaped like a rabbit. Other part live-action, part computer-animation films are being planned.
Chinese Teenage Research Institution (2000). ‘Julang de chongji: meijie yü dangdai shaonian ertong’ [Contemporary Media and Children]. In Xin faxian: dangdai Zhongguo shaonian ertong baogao [New Discoveries: Reports of Contemporary Chinese Children]. Zhongguo shaonian ertong chubanshe.
Donald, Stephanie (2002). ‘Crazy Rabbits! Children’s Media Culture and Socialization’. In Stephanie Donald, Michael Keane and Yin Hong (eds), Media in China: Consumption, Content and Change, London: Routledge Curzon, 128–38.
STEPHANIE HEMELRYK DONALD

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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