Filmmaker set for Cannes workshop

Updated: Apr 25, 2018 China Daily Print
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Chinese filmmaker Cao Jinling (right) was announced as one of the five winners by renowned filmmaker Ming Zhenjiang at the Wu Tianming Film Fund for the Young Talent event in Beijing on April 20. [Photo provided to China Daily]

When filmmaker Cao Jinling was a child, her family raised a deer in Moerdaoga in Northeast China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

Although the town covering 12 square kilometers has a population of around 25,000, its residents come from different ethnic groups such as Ewenki, Mongolian, Korean and Tibetan.

"We were familiar with most of the neighbors and my family was influenced by their lifestyles. For example, the Ewenki people herded reindeer and Korean people really liked kimchi," recalls Cao, who is of Mongolian-Manchu origin, during an interview with China Daily.

During the recent Beijing International Film Festival, Cao, 39, and four other young Chinese producers were selected by Wu Tianming Film Fund for Young Talents to participate in a week-long event called the Cannes Film Festival Industry Workshops, which will be held in the French city from May 9 to 14.

The fund, which was founded by the China Film Foundation in 2014, marks the late cinematic master Wu's contribution to Chinese cinema and aims to support young filmmakers.

Cao stands out among 15 shortlisted contenders for her movie Moerdaoga, somewhat a love letter to her hometown.

Aside from the deer, which her parents adopted from one of their neighbors, she grew up hearing stories about people and nature. Besides, the scenery of Moerdaoga, which is also known for being surrounded by China's largest national forest park, is part of Cao's memories.


Poster of filmmaker Cao Jinling's Moerdaoga. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"I penned a string of screenplays before, but all the stories were commissioned by the directors or investors. Moerdaoga is completely different. It's my own story," says Cao.

Spanning half a century from the early 1960s until the present, the movie looks into the relationship between humans and nature through the story of a lumberjack. Abandoned by his parents but adopted by a logger, Lin Zi, the protagonist, grows to join a loggers' team in Moerdaoga's forests. But he chooses to turn against his coworkers and face off smugglers to protect the last 53 primitive trees there.

The movie, written in 2015 when Cao was studying screenwriting at the University of Southern California, has inspiration from real life. Cao left Moerdaoga to work as a police officer in Beijing in the early 2000s. She shifted to the film industry since rising to fame from penning South Korean director Kwak Jae-yong's 2014 film Meet Miss Anxiety, starring Zhou Xun and Tong Dawei.

Over 50 years or so, the forests of Moerdaoga have undergone intensive deforestation. When the local authorities banned commercial logging in 2015, the majority of primitive trees had already been cut down.

And since 2013, the Ewenki people, with their reindeer, have been relocated from the forests to areas closer to the city of Genhe, northwest of the Great Khingan Mountain, as the government hopes to improve their living conditions and protect nature.

In her movie, Cao reflects the changes.

"When we were looking for proper filming sets in the forests, it was very difficult to find big trees. I walked on foot for long stretches and found an ideal filming environment, but I had to drop the plan as heavy equipment could not be transported by manpower alone," Cao says.

"I cannot tell you how long it takes a big tree to grow to its full height. But I was told that a sapling as thin as a chopstick could take three years to grow, as winter is long there and only three months every year are suitable for plants to grow," she says.

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