CNEX: Takeaways from the Chinese Doc Forum, Taipei (CCDF-5)

by Pat Ferns

Creative documentaries are alive and well in Taipei.

The highlight of the 5th edition of the CNEX Chinese Doc Forum (CCDF-5) was the Awards Ceremony in which eight Chinese documentaries were celebrated by a stellar cast of world broadcasters, festivals, foundations, funders and distribution companies.

  • Three days of intensive training preceded the two-day Pitching Forum.
  • The event continued with a two-day Producers’ Workshop entitled Money, Markets and Masters, a rich mix of panels and presentations, screenings and Master Classes.

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Key Takeaway

The takeaway according to several leading international commissioning editors was that the future of creative documentary rests with the talent: young filmmakers with strong stories and the ability to tell them in filmic terms.

This was clearly evident in the 18 projects pitched during the weekend in Taipei. They came from China, Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore and Taiwan as well as co-productions with Canada, Germany and the USA.

CNEX CEO Ruby Chen summed up impact of this successful international gathering: “It is really wonderful to see how these talented, upcoming young film makers shine in CCDF-5. This would not be possible without the candid and invaluable advice of all the senior filmmakers, commissioning editors, and experts who traveled a long way to Taipei . We know that these amazing Chinese stories will be told in a much more accessible and aesthetic way after this experience.”

This confidence was affirmed when Ruby was joined on-stage by Yang Wei-dong, President of leading Chinese internet video company Tudou.com, who announced an initiative to fund the distribution of CNEX productions.

The first three films to launch the program are Double Happiness and Bazaar Jumpers (both pitched at earlier editions of CCDF) as well as Stammer Ballad. The unifying theme of the package is an exploration of Chinese youth.

The Awards

  • The big winner of CCDF-5 was Mr. Hype, from China, which was awarded the US$5,000 CNEX prize for the project with most international potential. The key character in the film is an internet optimizer. Mr. Hype picked up two other prizes and development funding from BBC Storyville.
  • The CNEX prize for best pitch, again with a cheque for US$5,000, went to Little People, Big Dreams from Singapore. The film features a dwarf theme park in China.
  • Diary of a Lost Artist from Taiwan, a sensitive portrait of a Chinese artist who founded a museum in northern England, won a newly created prize from Sheffield DocFest, accompanied by a cheque from BBC Storyville for £1,000.
  • Tokyo Docs selected Hero or Rebel from Macao as the recipient of its prize: a chance to pitch at the prestigious Japanese forum plus travel and accommodation.
  • Mainland Chinese projects dominated the other awards. An important pitching opportunity at the Asian Side Of the Doc (ASD) in China (plus travel and accommodation), was won by Wish Tree, with the German coproduction On The Bridge of Life and Death and China’s Mr. Hype gaining the other two ASD awards.
  • My Dear Lines has been invited to pitch in Korea at Docs Port Inchon and in Guangzhou at GZDOC.

Bursaries

  • Two CNEX-WCSFP Bursaries were granted to A Peking Opera Master in New York, a China-USA collaboration and to Mr. Hype.
  • The bursaries provide the winners with travel, accommodation and registration to join other bursary winners from around the world to attend GZDOC in Guangzhou and the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers (WCSFP) in Hong Kong.

The Sessions

  • CCDF-5 featured screenings of various ‘Success Stories’ of docs pitched at previous editions of CCDF and supported by CNEX, including Du Haibin’s A Young Patriot and Wang Libo’s Oh, The San Xia as well as a Case Study of the well-known Chinese series A Bite of China.
  • Master Class screenings included Yung Chang’s The Fruit Hunters, S. Leo Chiang’s Mr. Cao Goes To Washington and Wo Ai Ni Mommy from Stephanie Wang-Breal. A special session Brave New Digital World featured Canada’s Tom Perlmutter, France’s Michel Reilhac and Yang Wei-dong from China’s Tudou.com.
  • A fascinating discussion on theatrical documentaries was co-organized with the Taiwan Film Institute. It explored the phenomenal success of domestic feature-length docs in Taiwanese cinemas. The international guests were impressed but related that similar successes in their countries were rare. The major audiences for docs will be across numerous platforms, and television will remain an important source of documentary financing.

Who was there

  • Attending CCDF-5 were broadcasters, digital media companies and distributors from China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the U.S.A.
  • Film festivals and markets represented at CCDF-5 included the Asian Side of the Doc, Busan, Doc Leipzig, FIPA, IDFA, Sheffield DocFest, Sunny Side of the Doc and Tokyo Docs.
  • Foundations attending and supporting CCDF-5 included the Sundance Institute and the Tribeca Film Institute from the U.S.A.

The vision

  • The CNEX Foundation is committed to documenting Chinese stories and to building capacity for these stories to be told by independent Chinese filmmakers.
  • Founded by Chairman Ben Tsiang, CEO Ruby Chen and Chief Producer Chang Chao-wei, CNEX is nearing its tenth year in operation.
  • It had a ten-year vision that has substantially been realized through its impressive team located in offices in Taipei, Beijing and Hong Kong. Its future plans include the launch of CNEX Studios.
  • CCDF is a key instrument in CNEX’s industry building commitment to Chinese talent.
  • The Director of CCDF is Sarah Hung and the Overall Planner and International Consultant is Pat Ferns.

Pat Ferns is a veteran Canadian producer who has dedicated his talents and energy to advancing the documentary genre. He is a longtime great friend of DocumentaryTelevision.com. Pat also earns our respect for having invented the festival pitch session format.

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