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Workshop with Qiang Wang and Producer Li

The second day of the Festival brought an European premiere of an amazing film by the Chinese director Qiang Wang, Sunshine That Can Move Mountains followed by a workshop with film director and producer.

It is very unusual to see a Chinese director of Manchu origin make a film about Tibetan Buddhists, founding his poetics completely on an understanding and respect for a way of life essentially foreign to him. Wang’s fascination with Tibet started with a series of documentary films which lead to the script for Sunshine that Can Move Mountains and finally its production. A strong feel for the spiritual practice of Buddhism is behind both the poetics of the film and his production as a whole. Namely, Wang’s script was developed into a film owing exclusively to the persistence and passion of the producer Li who found the script and personally made sure that the director’s vision came to life. It is not as often that a producer believes so firmly in a production that she insists the director go through with his intention to leave the film ending open and strange for the audience, because the openness of the ending is, as both of them stated, a Buddhist principle. This is particularly noteworthy having in mind the political sensitivity of the topic.

Non-religious himself (I wasn’t a Buddhist before the shooting of the film, I haven’t become one during the shooting, and i don’t think i will become one in the future) and with a feeling that he lacks this side of his personality, Wang pointed out during the workshop that he did not want to glamorize Tibet and that he wanted to present the spiritual life of the people in its everyday form, because it is impossible to separate the two. They look messy and shabby on the outside, but their spiritual life is incredibly clean and orderly, said the director. Attempting to present this apparent dualism, Wang insisted on the external rawness of the life of his characters, so he could stay true to the extremely internal values they genuinely respect.

Citing Andrei Tarkovsky as influence, Wang made an incredibly subtle film which remains dynamic and persuasive at all times. The closing scene, when the Buddhist monk and his sister-in-law drag his brother across snowy mountain slopes, five thousand miles away from the holy city Lhasa, going down on their knees to pray every step of the way, is the crown of the first feature by the Chinese director, with an interesting future ahead of him ‒ whether he becomes a Buddhist or not.