Though streaming is on the rise, film festivals are still an important channel for creators to showcase their work. If you’re an indie filmmaker in China, the Xining FIRST Youth Film Exhibition has become the place to see and be seen. Started in 2006, it is now known as the “Sundance of China,” and it is where directors like Wen Muye, director of 2018’s Dying To Survive (the third-highest grossing film at the Chinese box office), was discovered.
In 2011, the festival moved to the remote Qinghai province, a Tibetan region better known for its green pastures than its film industry. We invite three attendees from this year’s festival, which just wrapped up in July, on how FIRST helped them find their voice, the challenges of putting on an indie film festival in China, and how FIRST became a standard-bearer of quality for the industry?