Former TV producer takes the short route to success in Cannes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 May, 2008, 12:00am

Four years ago, Jiang Xuan was just a junior television producer at Star TV's Beijing offices, mainly responsible for producing commercials.

Never in her wildest dreams did she think that just a few years later she would be presenting her own film to rave reviews at the Cannes International Film Festival.

August 15th, a 21-minute short film, was part of the official selection of the festival's Cinefondation programme, which showcases the work of young student filmmakers.

Jiang qualified for the competition because she has just finished her masters' degree at Los Angeles' California Institute of the Arts, where she enrolled after spending three years working in Beijing.

August 15th is inspired by two real events on the mainland.

The story revolves around the way bus passengers refuse to intervene when a robber, who has hijacked the vehicle with another man, rapes a young woman at the back of the bus.

The film, which began as a school project, was shot on a mountain road in Hebei province . Jiang cast both professional actors and locals, the latter playing passengers.

Despite the violence depicted, August 15th has not been subjected to the scrutiny of mainland censors.

'It's a short film, which doesn't require permits - so nobody cares,' she said. 'And it's a human story to me. I didn't see it as a problem, as [the story] can happen in China or the US.'

Having spent most of the past four years in Los Angeles, she said the experience had provided her with a more open platform to air her views.

Jiang admits to feeling uneasy when Chinese students clash with people holding different views in the countries they are studying in.

'I always have disagreements with my classmates and we became really good friends by talking openly,' she said. 'I hope China can become more open about different views. If people can have more openness it will be a very beautiful thing.'

The Cinefondation results were announced before Cannes' main awards ceremony, to be held tonight, with the top prize going to a film by Israel's Elad Keidan.

There is no clear frontrunner for the Palme d'Or, the festival's top prize, although Clint Eastwood's thriller tentatively called Changeling, and Waltz with Bashir, Ari Folman's animated documentary, are among the most critically acclaimed entries.