Written by Debbie Howard.
Still Loved was invited to screen at i Docs International Documentary Forum in Beijing, China on Tuesday 15th November 2016 by festival Director Cherelle Zheng.
It was with enormous excitement that I travelled to China on 13th November, leaving straight from Cork Film Festival in Ireland where Still Loved had screened the night before.
After a long flight I was greeted at the airport by one of the volunteers from the festival and taken to the hotel in a traditional hotong of old style Beijing. I had already missed the first few days of the festival, due to the screening in Cork Film Festival, and was jet lagged and exhausted on arrival. After a quick nap I met up with one of the other filmmakers who was in the hotel, Karen Guthrie Who’s film The Closer We Get was screening that night. It was great to meet Karen and she escorted me down to the Beijing Film Academy to meet the team and all the other film makers from around the world.
A beautiful banquet had been arranged for everyone at a nearby restaurant. What an incredible first night treat this was, with exceptional food and great company. After that I went to see The Closer We Get, a moving, beautiful film about her family secret that was both funny and sad and wonderful.The following night was the screening of Still Loved. Nothing could have prepared me for this experience. Over 1000 people turned up to see Still Loved, crowded into the packed cinema, it was quite an experience! Watching the film subtitled into Mandarin and listening to the reaction of such a large audience was very moving.
The Q&A afterwards was an experience I will never forget. A Q&A with so many people is quite complicated, especially with a translator and language issues. This lasted about 15 minutes because the next day was a much more in depth discussion about the film in a two hour masterclass. After the screening, several people waiting behind for me to sign their tickets as memorabilia. The following day the masterclass I gave was hosted by Melanie Ansley Of China Hollywood. A filmmaker from LA that works in both the US and China. This was an extensive discussion about the making of the film and gave hundreds of people the opportunity to ask more in depth questions, again via two translators and also Melanie was able to clear up any misunderstandings that were still confusing.
Still Loved was very well received, but it was very interesting screening to this audience with such a difficult cultural frame of reference. Some people had said how much they had cried in the film, others were very angry and others confused. For a culture that until recently had a one child only policy, termination is common here and especially the termination of girls. So I was told that they don’t really bond with the baby until it is born, and that a baby that has died would not be considered a human being. So it must have been quite hard for them to understand the feelings of the families in the film.
This was not the case for everyone though. Some people were clearly very moved and it maybe brought up feelings about their own terminations that they had chosen not to give much thought to until now.
Many people stayed behind to ask personal questions after the masterclass had finished. Someone told me her friend had recently had a stillbirth and asked how best to support her. There were many personal questions and I could see that for some the film had really moved them, and for others they were angry, but this was also useful I thought because it had opened up a debate and started a thought process, which is always the beginning of change.
We had an expression of interest from a Chinese documentary distributor who is very interested in buying the film for a Chinese audience. We’ll be passing this onto our international sales agent CatnDocs.
It was a complicated and difficult experience, but one that I very much am delighted to have had the chance to have. One indeed, that I will never forget.
I then enjoyed several more days of films and masterclasses from the other filmmakers.
I’d like to say an enormous thank you to Cherelle, Lulu and Candice and everyone at i Docs for inviting us. It was wonderful to meet them and all the other filmmakers from around the world. What an incredible experience China has been and I’m thrilled that so many people came to see Still Loved there.
Once the festival ended I stayed on for a few more days getting the most out of my opportunity to be in China. I packed in as much as I could visiting the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, Houhai Lakes, Tiananmen Square, The Lama Temple and exploring the hotongs and markets.
Still Loved is now available on Vimeo on Demand. You can watch it HERE