Capturing Beijing through the viewfinder

Updated: 2013-07-18 02:17

By Deng Zhangyu (China Daily)

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American screenwriters take on the challenge of knowing the real China in an international competition.

Is it romantic for an American boy and his brand-new Chinese girlfriend to meet at Tiananmen Square or at the Forbidden City? Foreigners say yes but the Chinese wrinkle their foreheads, whispering it's weird. That was what screenwriter Crosby Selander and his Chinese film team faced often when they sat down to discuss the script in Beijing last month — collisions of ideas between two different cultures.

Selander is one of the participants of the just-finished 2013 Beijing International Screenwriting Competition. The 29-year-old is among seven winners in the short-film category who will be financed to make their scripts into movies in Beijing.

Capturing Beijing through the viewfinder

A scene from the short film You, Me and Beijing, written by Crosby Selander. Photos Provided to China Daily

Starting in March in the US, the screenwriting competition called for the US-based writers to submit scripts of either short films or features themed on Beijing. There were 861 scripts offered, including many submitted by writers at top universities like Harvard, Princeton, Yale and MIT.

In recent years, efforts to push Chinese culture onto the international stage have expanded greatly — in arts, music and films. But this was the first-of-its-kind competition held by Beijing and it got good feedback, based on the international public exposure and number of participants.

"We hope the young Americans know more about the culture of Beijing and China by taking part in the contest. It's also a good way to strengthen the exchange and communications between the young generations of China and America," says Kevin Niu, chairman of the competition.

So how do the contestants feel?

"The experience in Beijing has opened my eyes to a culture and a country that I'd never truly known," says Selander, a freelance writer and director in Hollywood. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 2010.

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