featured image of A still photo of the “Street Child”

The Director of “Street Child” Chang Yongliang is a graduate from the School of Urban Design at CAFA who majored in Video Creation (Film), and his tutor is Prof. Ning Ying. Among numerous graduation works, “Street Child” is undoubtedly one of the outstanding works, it has been recognized by the academy and the community in the graduation season over the past month. Currently, the “Street Child” has been awarded the outstanding graduation work by CAFA, won the First Prize by Agnès Varda’s Award, and is a finalist of FIRST Young Film Festival, nominated for the competition of best short film.

From Painting to Film: Transformation and Honing 

When Chang was a child, he started to simply draw under the guidance of his mother. Chang said with a smile that, “I was active from childhood, and I felt it difficult to concentrate my attention on many things except for two things. The first one is painting; the other one is making up stories.” Painting and making up stories are Chang’s childhood memories, which seem to indicate that it was inevitable to choose painting and the profession of film. After his training in painting in the junior high school and senior middle school, he was admitted to the School of Urban Design at CAFA.

At the beginning of the study in the School of Urban Design, he was lost and confused, for he felt he had moved far from painting (oil painting). Until he took the “Audio-Visual Language Course” with the teacher Tong Xiaofeng as an elective course in the second semester of the freshman year, the unique charm of film language, instantly enlightened him and he became addicted to it. He began to focus on the attractive image, carefully reading history books on film over and over again, watching all the famous films by famous directors, through study and reference, gradually generating a certain sensibility in the characteristics of video art. He believes that especially in the level of “emotional experience”, the film language is better than painting language, and with films, it is easy to achieve the sensory and emotional communication.

After understanding the unique charm of the film, Chang continued to learn film-related knowledge and chose the specialty of film – directing feature film creation in the sophomore year. At the same time, through participating in a number of social director incubator projects, he was also aware of the importance of making films as much as possible. His first film “Rebirth”, “Stranger” (won the first nomination of Agnès Varda’s Award), “The Last Summer” (Bronze Prize of Graduation Creation), etc., through constant trials, Chang finished the honing and transformation of the idea of the script, shooting and post-editing step by step.

“Street Child”: Memories of Loneliness and Elapsing 

Chang Yongliang’s graduation creation “Street Child” was taken in the village of Hebei, to explore the inner world of an adolescent stay-at-home boy. The protagonist Yazi was born in a village of Shijiazhuang, Hebei, his mother ran away from their home when he was 11 years old; his father perennially worked away, leaving only him and his elderly grandma at home. In the 1990s, a number of street artists stationed and performed in the villages, when he saw the first play, he was attracted by the beautiful actress, and he gradually discovered that that beautiful actress was played by a good-looking man, though he could feel the concern of his grandmother, the actor agreed to take him to the world outside after one rehearsal. However, along with the decline in Chinese drama, the disappearance of the drama caravan, the quiet life of the actor, combined with his grandmother’s passing away, he became trapped in a lonely fog…

The inspiration of the work, Chang states is as follows: “I was inspired by my childhood memories, when I was a child, some street artists would come to the village, when I first saw the actress, I was deeply attracted by the special beauty. At that time, perhaps it was out of a primitive impulse, I always hoped that she could become my mother, but with the passing of time, the pure drama performances have been gradually replaced by flamboyant pop music performances, all these make me very sad.

On the other hand, the mother of one of my childhood friends ran away from home, after that, he often lived and ate together with me, when he first told me the moment that his mother ran away, a screen with the sound of the door creaking appeared in my mind. After a long time, my memories and dreams become blurred, and sometimes I felt a link between the disappearance of the actor and his mother’s departure, and it finally became a memory on the feeling of loneliness. I combined both to constitute my film “Street Child”.

“Everyone Can Actually Make a Film, But the Level is Based on the Sensitivity Towards Life” 

A Canon 6D, radio equipment H4N, rented slide, two persons, three solar lights, and more than ten thousand RMB of funds, Chang had to be very careful in reckoning in poor conditions. People, props, costumes and inviting theatrical troupes, Chang said that, “It requires overhead cables everywhere, it is really difficult because it is without adequate funding.” In addition, he adhered to the appliance of non-professional actors which also made him spend a lot of time and effort in the guidance of the actors’ performance but he believed that the reality of the non-professional actors was more critical and the most moving part of the film.

The hard filming is just the beginning and he started a lengthy post-production grinding after the finishing of 30-day location shooting. On the one hand, the grinding is the process of the formation of the individual style of director, and on the other hand, it demands a stronger ability to control the overall situation and the rhythm. Throughout the post-production process, his tutor Ning Ying emphasized that getting out of the director’s consciousness and rethinking and creating with the awareness of editing is a very big help and tip for him in the integral shaping of the film.

In addition, Chang said he tried to include a “fish” in the “Street Child”, which is a symbolism and metaphor that is associated with the desire and spirit. In the eyes of Chang, there are many interesting things in childhood, and children who are often able to meet many “spiritual” things. For example, in the film, the child digs a fish into the earth, which seems to be unreasonable for adults, but it is full of possibilities for children.

In this era of information and globalization, we are already surrounded by various types of film or video. What is the real source of inspiration for the director? Chang Yongliang constantly referred to “life” and “reality”. ” Chang Yongliang said that, “Everyone can actually make a film, but the level is based on the sensitivity towards life. At the same time, a director does not only have imagination and enthusiasm, but also has a real perception on the life.” Chang is full of hope for the future. He hopes to continue walking on the path of filmmaking, and hopes to have the opportunity to start trying to shoot feature films and a variety of films, which will also bring him more challenges and rewards.

Text by Yu Ya, translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO

Photo and video courtesy of Chang Yongliang

Related posts: