Creating a Cultural Feast Combining Technology and Entertainment
-Interview with Song Miao, President of Canada China International Film Festival

The second Canada China International Film Festival (CCIFF) will take place in Montreal, Canada from September 23 to September 27, 2017. The first Canada China International Film Festival was held successfully in Montreal, Canada in September 2016. During the span of the four-day festival, the CCIFF welcomed over twenty thousand audiences, held over 100 screenings for 85 excellent films, and conducted 44 seminars and masterclasses, attracted and well received by people from all walks of society. The second CCIFF consists of seven main events. While expanding the Chinese market, the festival focuses on promoting Chinese film culture, aiming to bring more cooperation opportunities for Chinese filmmakers.


Q: The first CCIFF has been held successfully. Compared to Toronto International Film Festival and Montreal International Film Festival, what characteristics are the CCIFF demonstrated to distinguish itself from other Canadian film festivals?

A: In 2016, the first CCIFF was held during the China Canada Year of People-to-People and Culture Exchange, which was a large film-themed festival featured professional, international, vanguard and market-oriented development. 2017 marks 150th Canada Day and 375th anniversary of the city of Montreal, while 2018 will be the Year of Canada-China Tourism. We wish to make some contribution to the exchange and cooperation between Chinese and Canadian film culture, promoting the exchange and communication between Chinese and Canadian filmmakers, increasing understanding and collaboration between Chinese and Canadian film market and establishing a bridge for the film development between the two countries and even in the whole film industry worldwide.

Apart from building the communication platform between the two countries, the CCIFF also features the promotion of film art and technology cooperation (e.g. AR, VR) between the two countries and establishes an interactive platform for China-Canada co-production films. We appreciate that the CCIFF have received the guidance and won the support from related governments of the two countries such as the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People’s Republic of China and Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. In particular, Concordia University, that has been highly recognized the CCIFF since its onset.

Meanwhile, the Organizing Committee of the CCIFF consists of young university students and film industry professionals from China and Canada. They hope to make their contribution to the society. The second CCIFF is under preparation. We also keep learning and growing. Hopefully, the CCIFF could foster the understanding, friendship and cooperation between Chinese and Canadian filmmakers and further push forward the cultural communication between China and Canada.


Q: As the second CCIFF is approaching, what events and highlights are added at this year’s?

A: This year’s CCIFF maintains all events of the first year’s. Meanwhile, we add new contents and innovative elements into the events. We also make further progress based on the last year’s achievements, developing the CCIFF into a professional film festival. There will be seven main events including the Opening Ceremony, the International Film Screening and Selection, the Canada China Co-production Project Pitch, the Female Subject Film Seminar, the Entertainment Technology Summit and Technology Exhibition, and the Closing Ceremony, as well as the theme to celebrate the 150th Canada Day and the 375th anniversary of the city of Montreal. Meanwhile, this year’s CCIFF will organize industrial exchange activities. Through visiting the National Film Board of Canada, Royal Bank of Canada, Cirque du Soleil, Moment Factory and other famous institutions and enterprises to bring Chinese and Canadian filmmakers together and further explore exchange and cooperation opportunities at Montreal.


Q: What events are the CCIFF designed to promote the communication between Chinese and Canadian film industry? What’s the effect that the first CCIFF generated? Which kinds of Chinese films are popular among Canadian audiences?

A: Establishing a communication and cooperation platform for Chinese and Canadian film industry is one of major themes of the CCIFF, which reflects in one of seven events at the CCIFF, the Canada China Co-production Project Pitch. The first CCIFF coincides with The Year of People to People and Cultural Exchanges 2015-2016, when the prime ministers of the two countries paid mutual state visits and signed two preferential policies. Last year’s CCIFF activated a communication platform for the film sector or professionals between the two countries. From last year’s to this year’s CCIFF, we continuously push forward the co-production projects between the two countries. At the Press Conference held in Shanghai in June, a “Four-Party Strategic Cooperation Agreement” was signed by the CCIFF, Shanghai Dream Plus Investment Corporation Limited, Coolboy (Shanghai) Culture Communication Co., Ltd. and Fortune Star Media Limited to film Once a Thief 2 directed by Director John Woo in Montreal. Through cooperating with the CCIFF and utilizing Canadian tourism and new technology resources, we hope to combine the advantages of film production in both countries and make this IP film into a classic co-produced movie between China and Canada.

At the last year’s CCIFF, The Promised One won the People Choice Award, The Calligraphy Master directed by Mr. Ding Yinnan and Mr. Ding Zhen, and Woman Sesame Oil Maker directed by Xie Fei at the classical film review section won the love of local audiences and Chinese. On the National Canadian Film Day took place in this April, we jointly screened Iron Road directed by David Wu and starring Sun Li, co-produced by China and Canada, well received by audiences.


Q: The CCIFF is hosted by Canada China Art Tech, highlighting the technology and academic elements. What characteristics are the CCIFF demonstrated in its technology section? What efforts do you make in promoting the combination of films and technology? Would you please introduce the background and development status of Canada China Art Tech?

A: The CCIFF pushes forward the development of the film art and technology entertainment by its unique features based on the traditional film festivals. We were honored to have Rajesh Sharma at the Entertainment Technology Submit of the premier edition as our guest speaker, who is the technology manager of Disney Animation Studios. He talked about how to combine film and technology in the film Zootopia, which won the 2017 Oscar for animated feature film.

Among seven events at this year’s CCIFF, the Entertainment Technology Submit will invite four leading figures in applying technology to films as the guest speakers, which are Dr. Brian A. Barsky (Berkeley University), Jean-François Larouche (Moment Factory), Dr. Ching Y. Suen Concordia University, and Eloi Champagne (National Film Board of Canada). Meanwhile, the Technology Exhibition will gather entertainment technology representatives from China and Canada, including Moment Factory, Cirque Du Soleil and National Film Board as Canadian representatives and China Research Institute of Film Science & Technology, Shanghai Multimedia Industry Association, China Technology Culture Spreading Industry Federation and Shanghai Dream Plus Investment Corporation Limited as Chinese representatives. Technology and film professionals will have enough time to talk with each other at the CCIFF.

The Canada China Art-Tech is a non-profit organization registered at the Quebec and Canada Federation Government and also the host organization of this year’s CCIFF. As a bond in the entertainment and technology field between China and Canada, the Canada China Art-Tech is devoted to building an international technology and art platform fostering the advancement of digital interactive media technology with all walks of society by gathering leading academicians, authoritative research institutions and cutting-edge technology companies together. The CCIFF is an annual large event. We also do some exchange activities in such areas as academy, culture and training. For example, at the Beijing International Film Festival, we worked with China National Film Museum and aired eight Canadian films, well received by Chinese audiences. We also participate in research and development projects jointly conducted by Chinese Academy of Sciences and other famous Canadian digital media companies. Meanwhile, we actively participate in making documentary films and promoting more co-produced films.


Q: Recently, Canada has become one of popular destinations for co-produced Chinese films. More and more Chinese filmmakers shoot films in Canada. The Canadian government promulgates a series of preferential policies for filmmakers. What measures does the CCIFF adopt to promote China-Canada co-produced films? In your opinions, what matters should the Chinese film industry pay attention to when cooperating with foreign counterparts? What kind of preparation is needed?

A: Canada has diversified environmental resources and is a good place to shoot films. With further deepening communication between China and Canada, during The Year of People to People and Cultural Exchanges 2015-2016, the prime ministers of the two countries paid mutual state visits and signed the Co-Production Film Agreement between the Chinese Government and Canadian Government and the Cooperation Plan of Culture Agreement between the Chinese Government and the Canadian Government (2017-2019), greatly pushing forward the development of Chinese and Canadian film sector.

From the first CCIFF, we set up the co-production project pitch function, where Quebec cultural authority, Montreal investment office, Royal Bank of Canada and other institutions introduced the resource and tax advantages of filming or co-production film in Canada. We also promoted six projects and interfaced cooperation resources via this platform. Later, many projects find us and explore the future prospect of co-produced or cooperated films between the two countries.

At the second CCIFF, Quebec cultural authority will interface related industries in line with the needs of Chinese guests, filmmakers and organizations, such as documentary, commercial co-produced films, VFX, VR/AR technology and game companies. Royal Bank of Canada also invites related Chinese companies to have roadshows at the meeting room on Floor 41 of its headquarters building, and introduces the services provided for co-production projects. Cirque Du Soleil, Moment Factory, National Film Board of Canada and other organizations also would like to welcome and exchange with Chinese filmmakers. In addition, Once a Thief 2 invested by Shanghai Dream Plus Investment Corporation Limited work with Canada co-production companies and visit the movie scene location and visual effects companies.


Q: You work with Concordia University as a professor of Computer Science and Art. How do you involve in films?

A: I am a professor of Concordia University, an artist supported by Quebec Art Committee jury members and funds, CEO of mDreams Pictures, an award-winning documentary film director, an artist of interactive media and initiator of China-Canada art technology federation. My academic background is mixed with computer science and art. I studied theatre direction and worked in the CCTV as a journalist when I was in China. I completed the SIP (special individualized program) at Concordia University, which involves a mix of documentary production, drama directing and interactive multimedia based on computer science.

In my opinion, the film is no longer a kind of single media. Instead, it works closely with drama and other media and art forms, and blurs the boundary with games. Later, we would see that it will become a more inclusive media and artistic form. For example, we not only watch movies in the theater, but also on our mobile phone. We also have 3D and VR films. So, our team is specialized in the technological research on these areas and committed to promoting the film development from the technological aspect based on our academic capacity. Technically, as a professor, I need to publish a lot of papers on such subjects as cinema, graphic animation and graphics. Meanwhile, we exchange with the best companies and academic groups and invite them to attend the CCIFF.


Q: In your opinion, what are the most important factors for a film festival to succeed? What’s your plan and expectation for the future CCIFF?

A: As a new film festival, we continuously seek innovation while keeping the tradition of film festivals. We wish to show each step of our growth through each press conference and film festival activity. We thank for those people who offer their support and have expectation of us. Meanwhile, we also bear overloaded pressure and try our best not to live up with their expectation.

As an organizing committee consisting of volunteers and university students, we keep learning and move ahead. Our team accumulate abundant experience through various tasks. We gain a lot of experience from organizing last year’s CCIFF. We also face pressure and difficulties when preparing for this year’s. However, we encourage each other in this big family, sharing the same dream and devoted to promoting cultural, film, art and technology exchange between the two countries. The CCIFF is committed to contributing to the cultural exchange, film art and technology development between China and Canada through developing the CCIFF into a professional and international film festival.

Regarding the future development of the CCIFF, we hope to make continuous innovation. Based on our understanding and specialty in entertainment technology, the CCIFF will follow the step of technology development and combine Chinese films with foreign computer technology as entertainment technology exerts more and more influence on films. For example, with the sophistication of VR and AR technology, more and more people are engaged in research of VR and AR. The combination of technology and film just starts out its journey and which also has a long way to go. Audiences now just experience the visual effect. However, as the initiator and president of the CCIFF, I hope that more filmmakers could make innovation based on knowing the technology and produce works and contents aligning with the audience’s needs, enabling the entertainment technology to perfectly apply to the film production.