Another film by Pankaja has been selected to be shown in the ‘Short Film’ category by the London Independent Film Festival.
The London Independent Film Festival, which took place last month, “is committed to the independent filmmaker, giving special attention to films by first- and second-time directors, films shot with budgets under £100,000, and quality films that, for whatever reason, are unlikely to receive distribution through other channels.” Films are submitted from all over the world. Osho News congratulates Panky on her success, more so as this is the third year running that one of her films has been shown.
This year the film chosen was Master Wu Nanfang on Song Mountain – showing incidents in the daily life of a kungfu master living near Song Mountain in Henan province, China. Last year the film chosen was Kidnap – showing the frantic efforts that Dwabha, who runs an orphanage in the Himalayas, made to find one of her young female orphans who had been kidnapped to be forced into prostitution in Nepal. In 2011 Guo’s Childhood was chosen. This film showed the life of a Chinese man who was a child during the ‘Cultural Revolution’ and the devastating privations suffered by the poor people in China during this time.
As I was living in the Song Mountain area when Panky shot her Chinese films, Osho News asked me to write about the background to the last film. I guess I was the official ‘stills’ photographer. Panky had arranged ahead of time to film Master Wu Nanfang who was more than happy to be the star of the show! Having lived in the area for most of his life he has a unique knowledge of picturesque landscapes to be use as locations and had everything mapped out by the time she arrived – Spring 2011.
I was awakened one morning at about 5.30 by my mobile phone ringing. It was Ibo, one of the kungfu schools senior students, and our translator. He has an exceptional command of the English language. He told me he was waiting outside the house where I was staying with the school’s van to take me and Panky to the school to film Master Wu Nanfang doing calligraphy in the snow! Apparently he thought this would make the scene more beautiful. I looked out of the window and sure enough it was snowing. In April! I quickly got dressed and ran down the stairs to the car and off we went to pick up Panky who had had slightly more warning than me so was waiting outside to be picked up. When we arrived at the school we found the master had set up his calligraphy table and utensils on the sort of porch of the school but Panky had to stand outside in the snow to film! Two students obligingly sheltered her with an umbrella.
It was usually my job to look at the set up and the clothes worn etc and I noticed that the kungfu uniform that the sleepy little boy, Tian De, who the master had chosen to be there to add more interest to proceedings, was absolutely filthy. I quickly took him to his dormitory and we rummaged through his clothes but the other top was in as disgraceful a condition. Ibo was called and, having understood the problem, found a boy who was the closest in size to Tian De and he fortunately had a clean top — but it was still much too big. Hence the rather ill-fitting outfit that Tian De is wearing. He also must have been freezing cold but heroically stuck it out like a true kungfu warrior only revealing some of his feeling in the funny faces he continuously pulled – adding much hilarity for those watching the finished product!
The next day the sun was shining and the master arranged for us to walk into the foothills of the mountain – which provided a stunning backdrop to the next part of the film: the master showing how many of the kungfu movements originated in farming tasks. People in the old days worked hard and didn’t have excess time to practise their kungfu forms so the movements were incorporated into farming activity like digging and turning the earth for sowing seeds. At the same time the farmers were improving their health and protecting themselves from injury by being aware of their movements.
Two days later we got up at 4.30, before sunrise, to be driven to one of the spectacular valleys hidden up a secret path in the mountain. With the colours of the rising sun falling on the rocks, these scenes were amazing. Many kungfu moves depend on balance and movement in a very restricted area and so there is a fondness for jutting rocks and cliff edges to demonstrate the prowess of the kungfu fighter. Master WuNanfang had chosen a dramatic promontory on which to demonstrate the forms. To stumble and fall from this place would have resulted in certain death. The master had to climb high up the side of the mountain but the filmmaker, photographer and translator had to climb too to keep up with him!
These shots in Panky’s film are stunning and, for me as a photographer, many of the photos taken at this session I count as some of the most remarkable of all of the photos I have taken of the mountain over the six years I have been going there.
The final session was to be filmed on another part of the mountain so we were carted off to the other side of the town and deposited behind one of my most favourite temple, Zhongue Maio – an ancient Taoist temple. Here we again had to climb up to a small shrine from where the master and some selected students, and Ibo, of course, hiked along a trail to another hazardous promontory. In fact there was so little space here that Panky had a hard time fitting the action into the camera lens – despite crawling into a very prickly bush — so her shots were not as good as she would have liked. I decided to use my zoom lens from the shrine rather than traipse along the rough narrow mountain path.
Of course, after each filming all the participants had to see the footage so there was always a post-filming time, usually at a local hotpot vegetarian restaurant as this school of kungfu is strictly vegetarian.
Text and photos by Veena for Osho News