Young film makers from 19 countries to tell Chinese stories

Huang Huilin, founder of Looking China and dean of the Academy for International Communication of Chinese Culture, speaks at the 2014 Looking China Golden Lenses award ceremony in Beijing on May 4, 2015.

What does China look like through the eyes of young foreigners? Some 100 students from 19 countries are to visit cities including Beijing, Qingdao and Kaifeng to tell their own stories to the world through short documentary films.

The 2014 Looking China Golden Lenses award ceremony and 2015 Looking China Youth Film Project launch took place in Beijing on Monday.

The Youth Film Project is a cultural exchange programme organised by the Academy for International Communication of Chinese Culture (AICCC).

Huang Huilin, founder of Looking China and dean of AICCC, said the 100 students will be split into 10 teams to visit 10 cities.

With the theme "Individual, Family and Nation," they will each shoot a 10-minute film.

Jacopo Wassermann, a student from Portugal visiting China for the first time, will go to Qingdao. He said everything he knows about China has come from the Internet.

He expects to experience everyday life in China and hopes to learn some Chinese during the process.

"I am going to film an apprentice cook. I want to present the theme 'Individual, Family and Nation' by depicting the cook, his family and Chinese food culture," said Wassermann.

Anke Van Lancker, cultural counselor at the Embassy of Belgium in China, said Looking China is a great cultural exchange programme which will enable young film makers to learn from each other and observe the country from different cultural perspectives, which is beneficial to mutual understanding between China and the world.

She also said it would be challenging for participants to present an abstract theme by means of concrete things.

The 2014 Looking China Golden Lenses award ceremony saw nine of 57 documentary films made last year collect prizes.

Some of the films focused on traditional culture, such as Chinese medicine, woodcut and Kunqu opera; some paid attention to people's everyday lives and social phenomena.

The Golden Lenses first prize winner Age, Height, Education featured unique Chinese-style "blind dates" in a Suzhou park where children's personal information is written on pieces of cardboard and parents talk to each other hoping to find the right match for their offspring.

AICCC dean Huang said three standards are followed in choosing foreign students and the awarding of prizes: unique cultural perspective, outstanding artistic expression and good Sino-foreign cooperative spirit.

Huang added that some foreign students shattered stereotypes about China by experiencing the country themselves.

One, who watched kung fu films before visiting, wanted to shoot relevant topics. With the help of AICCC, he visited a school for the blind and took part in filming tai chi classes.

"With days of close observation and shooting, he understood that the kung fu spirit is far beyond fighting and killing," Huang said.

Looking China has been held four times since 2011 and 100 short films produced with about a dozen winning awards in festivals at home and abroad.