On June 23, with the unveiling of the winners of Magnolia Awards, the five-day 28th Shanghai TV Festival (STVF) drew to a grand conclusion. And this year, the Magnolia Awards have attracted nearly 1,900 entries from the past two years, among which there is a plethora of phenomenal “hits”. China’s TV masterpieces will be carried away to other climates through the Belt and Road TV Showcase programme launched by the National of Radio and Television Administration at STVF. A series of STVFORUM activities have offered insights and suggestions for composing a new chapter of China’s TV drama cause in the new era and driving China’s radio and television industry to further meet people’s new expectations for a better life with high-quality development. The public offline screening activities in 18 venues have delighted the audience with more humanistic care, and the display of 5G technology among other radio and television technologies has drawn the future of TV closer to us...... STVF, a festival imbued with humanity, has warmed the hearts of people across the city through the TV screen, set industry trends with sophisticated works, envisioned the future through technologies, and unveiled the look of China today to the rest of the whole world.
Magnolia Awards: To choose the best among the best with congratulations to all nominees
As the weathervane of the industry, the list of nominees of various sections of Magnolia Awards of the 28th STVF has made a splash inside and outside the industry the time it was announced. Spanning two selection seasons, Chinese TV dramas for this edition of Magnolia Awards have revealed for us an artistic spectacle of an array of masterpieces that “advocate positive energy with influence attained with high quality”. 22 hot dramas, such as FAITH MAKES GREAT, MEDAL OF THE REPUBLIC, BEYOND, A LIFELONG JOURNEY, THE EXAMINATION FOR EVERYONE, OUR TEN TIMES, BRIGHT FUTURE, THE LONG RIVER, A DREAM OF SPLENDOR, THE KNOCKOUT, THREE-BODY, etc. have been shortlisted for the “TV Drama (China)” section. As perceived by Hu Zhifeng, Jury President for the Drama section, the glory should go to all finalists, “Facing epic matchup, it is always difficult for us to make choices; but we’ll choose the best among the best with professional standards.” As Hu Zhifeng and other juries perceive, this year’s Magnolia Awards have come with an overview of Chinese TV dramas that have emerged in the past two years and will guide the creation of TV dramas in the future positively as a “weathervane”, and the final winners are surely benchmark works acknowledged by both the audience and the industry.
Indeed, if we take a glance at the shortlist of “Best TV Dramas (China)” for this year’s Magnolia Awards, we can easily notice a wide range of works that uphold the concept of “people-oriented” creation. Be it the hymn to Chinese people’s life A LIFELONG JOURNEY, which spans five decades, or the science fiction drama THREE-BODY, which shows the charm of Chinese hardcore sci-fi audiovisual content, these works have resorted to the creative approach of “healing realism” developed with diverse narrative languages, exuding a vibrant human touch that praises the resilience of the human spirit, captures the most admirable characters, and builds up people’s expectations and confidence for a better life. This year, STVF has incorporated online audiovisual works in all sections of Magnolia Awards unprecedently. From traditional “TV dramas” to “dramas” released concurrently through TV stations and online platforms, the relationship between TV stations and network platforms is moving towards benign competition and cooperation following the implementation of the “same standard for online and offline distribution” achieved by the adaptation of online drama distribution license and domestic TV series distribution license, to maximize the influence of excellent dramas, foster micro-short dramas, short dramas, portrait dramas, interactive dramas and other new audiovisual forms in the era of convergent media, and shape the “Big Audiovisual” landscape.
The finalists in the sections of Foreign Drama, Documentary and Animation of Magnolia Awards have also assembled the best part of productions across the world. These works also train their lens on the “voices around” and have tugged at the heartstrings of the audience and the jury with stories that care about our community, mankind, and the changes of the times. Jury member for Foreign Drama and Spanish actress Mar Sodupe noted that the jury panel was particularly concerned with commonality: “Because these stories are informed by joys and sorrows shared by all human beings, and a story that depicts the human side will be internationally appealing.”
Mutual appreciation of civilizations: Understanding among the people along the Belt and Road route
On June 19, at the opening ceremony of this year’s STVF, the Belt and Road TV Showcase programme organized by the National Radio and Television Administration officially kicked off. One hundred audiovisual masterpieces demonstrating the great leadership of General Secretary Xi Jinping, advocating the ideal of human community with a shared future, portraying the magnificent new journey of China in the new era and unveiling the innovative development of fine traditional Chinese culture, including 30 TV dramas such as MINNING TOWN and THREE-BODY, 30 documentaries such as ADVENTURES ON THE NEW SILK ROAD and A BITE OF YANCHENG, 20 animations such as GROWING UP WITH TIANTIAN and NO. 23 NIU NAITANG, and 20 variety programs, such as SEE YOU AGAIN and OFFER, aside from song and dance productions, are selected by the prorgamme to be showcased and promoted in major countries along the Belt and Road route in the second half of 2023.
This programme will also carefully curate the screening of over 60 well-crafted audiovisual productions from countries along the Belt and Road route, including Uzbekistan’s JOURNEY OF CULTURE, Russia’s MASHA AND THE BEAR, Thailand’s FABULOUS 30, Japan’s REBOOTING and India’s KANAA, on radio and TV stations in nearly 20 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities), including Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai, from June to September 2023, to zoom in on the unique cultural appeal along the Belt and Road route. The cultural activities underpinned by the Belt and Road Initiative to “go global” and “bring in”, while further facilitating people-to-people exchanges and mutual appreciation of civilizations among countries, will accelerate the pace of building an independent discourse and narrative system of China, to present faithfully a trustable, adorable and respectable image of China, and promote mutual understanding among people from various countries.
As an international TV festival with worldwide influence, STVF has provided a reliable platform for the exchange and mutual appreciation, dialogue and cooperation among TV cultures in the world for more than 30 years. This year, returning offline with an entire lineup of sections, STVF has renewed its international prestige from all dimensions. The STVF Market has continued its mission of building an international arena to boost the film and television industry. This year, set in the 13,000-square-meter exhibition zone in Shanghai Exhibition Center and joined by the International Film & TV Online Market that was introduced in 2020, it has brought together nearly 150 exhibitors, of which about 40% were overseas players. The STVF Market has yielded fruitful results by introducing and exporting quality film and TV productions, furthering exchanges and cooperation with overseas markets, and continuously upgrading the international influence of China’s film and TV industry.
The forum of “Market Insight and Innovation Practice of Global Content Collaboration” has featured film and television workers from China, Japan, Russia, Uzbekistan and other countries coming together to explore ways to initiate Chinese TV works into overseas market. In recent years, urban and suspense dramas represented by THE BAD KIDS, DAY AND NIGHT and NOTHING BUT THIRTY, and mainstream dramas like MINNING TOWN, LIKE A FLOWING RIVER and THE AGE OF AWAKENING have garnered extremely high ratings overseas, while overseas audiences have shown special interests in realistic works that mirror a multitude of social facets and people’s lives in China. For example, A BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER-IN-LAW ERA, which spotlights the relationship between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law, became a hit instantly following its release in Africa, and Chinese costume dramas has also seen an increasingly growing viewership in Asia. The diversified tastes of overseas audiences have also posed higher demands on Chinese TV workers on how to tell Chinese stories with diverse themes. Meanwhile, as for how to quickly adapt to the overseas markets and roll out local operation after the export of Chinese content, technology may act as an invaluable ally. Taking the international version of iQIYI as an example, more than 87% of international users will find the broadcast starts within 2 seconds after they click the play button. And the platform’s translation and real-time orchestration system is designed to support user interfaces and subtitles in 12 languages. The application of 4K resolution technology has also boosted localized operation and communication. For example, after the resolution of JOURNEY TO THE WEST was upgraded to 4K, the overseas views have increased from 1 million to more than 4 million, and these highly advanced technologies have all served to escort the way of Chinese content towards the global market.
Industry interface: High-end dialogue and shared prosperous future
At present, the TV industry is plowing efforts to pushing ahead with the construction of the all-media communication system to develop a new pattern for mainstream public opinions. This year’s STVF has pooled the power of the industry to create a multi-dimensional platform for exchange, integration, cooperation and common progress among TV cultures. Aside from “Content Export and International Cooperation”, seven theme forums and three MasterClass sessions were organized during the festival, with 82 guests from 10 countries and regions involved in the discussions and about 1,500 industry audience attending on site.
The “Quality and Diversity: Chinese TV Drama Development Forum” has zoomed in on the production of finely crafted new dramas. Zhang Ting, chief director and scriptwriter of THE LONG RIVER and Wang Xiaoqiang, scriptwriter of BRIGHT FUTURE, shared their creative experiences respectively. The process of creation is a lonely and painstaking journey, as Wang Xiaoqiang said: “It is undoubtedly very relaxed to talk about it now, but at that time, I felt that days were dragging like years. There are many reasons behind that. For example, I found it difficult to fit in the southern life and the strange new place as a northerner, and I failed to adapt to the shift of my role from an onlooker to a participant with an urge to engage with the team, while cloaked in lingering loneliness.” It is with the persistence of these behind-the-scenes creators that China’s TV screen has managed to blossom with endless masterpieces. Gao Changli, Director of the TV Drama Department of National Radio and Television Administration said: “The TV dramas of our country is just like our homemade food, which boasts both main courses and side dishes or appetizers. And the same is true of TV dramas. We’ll enchant our guests’ tastebuds with such a cultural feast. And we have to offer diverse, high-quality, colorful TV productions on the supply side, to entertain the majority of the audience.”
The forum themed “Integration and Co-creation, New Audiovisual Mode for 5G Radio and Television” have attracted more than 200 industry representatives, experts and scholars as well as upstream and downstream partners from all over the country to probe into the integrated development path and new opportunities for audiovisual services in the application and industry sides empowered by 5G radio and television. The “5G Cloud TV” and “5G channel secure broadcasting chain” were unveiled on site. In the era of high-speed iteration of radio and television technology, the rapid development of China’s radio and television undertaking has brought real audiovisual enjoyment to the people. Ultra-high-definition production has made it possible for people enjoy the portrait version of the CCTV’s Spring Festival Gala through cell phones at fingertips. And such revolution has directly led to the growth of the viewership from 130 million last year to 190 million this year.
The National Radio and Television Administration has formulated a strategic plan for the development of future television and a medium-term and long-term technology development plan for radio, television and online audiovisual content for 2035. The “Smart Radio and Television - Big Audio-Visual and Technology Innovation” forum have followed the development pulse of the industry and organized keynote speeches on the future planning of radio and television, generation of AI content, big data capacity construction, ultra-high definition trends and other topics, to shed light on the possible far-reaching impact of technological innovation on the radio and television ecology in the future; this year, STVF has established the first-ever “Documentary Day”, and the “New Era Based Expression and International Narrative – Innovative Development of Documentaries” forum has focused on the innovative expression of documentaries in the new era and the international narrative of Chinese stories, in the hope that more documentaries telling “Chinese stories” will be acclaimed among audiences around the world; STVFORUM has also released the highlights of the China Audiovisual New Media Development Report (2023) and invited representatives of online audiovisual platforms and web-native content creation to gain insight into the infinite possibilities that can be unleashed by web-native content in the face of opportunities brought about by media convergence in the new stage, a new round of information revolution, pan-knowledge content production and the construction of learning platforms; While premium full-length dramas are booming, “tailor-made” short dramas are also on the rise. The professional upgrading of “new forces” in micro-short drama and the micro-short drama project roadshow have gathered the heads of various video platforms to set eyes on the improvement of micro-short dramas’ quality and the expansion of the micro-short drama market. Moreover, in the MasterClass events for jury presidents, animation and documentary, the jury members of Magnolia Awards have shared their observations and thoughts with the audience as film and TV scholars or through their own creative experiences. In addition, in the Master Class for Jury President, Master Class for Animation and Master Class for Documentary, the jury members of Magnolia Award share their observations and thoughts with the audience with the eyes of film and television scholars or with their own creative experiences. The Magnolia Reception Room jointly presented by STVF and China Media Group Mobile has also welcomed 20 groups of 35 guests during the festival to talk about the field and the industry, and conveyed the development updates of the TV industry and the creative insights of the artists in a more relaxed conversation atmosphere.
The blooming magnolia flowers heralds a promising future. In the research and review meeting of excellent Shanghai-made TV dramas in the new era held during the festival, experts from the film and television industry nationwide have analyzed the excellent Shanghai-made TV dramas that “advocate positive energy with influence attained with high quality” in the past ten years from different angles, explored the creation rules and development path from specifics to the general, and expressed the expectation of continuing the prosperity of TV dramas and providing richer spiritual nourishment for the people from a new starting point. Shanghai, which has always been one of the hubs for TV drama creation in China, will consciously take it as its mission to portray and chronicle the times and promote moral integrity for the times, and work with all parties to create a new culture of our time, continuously enrich the spiritual world of the people and bolster their spiritual power.
Urban aesthetic education: Culture and tourism combined to soothe souls
Since its inception in 1986, STVF has been fulfilling the concept of “A City for the People” with people-oriented cultural events, and passing on the spiritual values in excellent works to more citizens through an industry feast.
Under the guidance of Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture and Tourism and Shanghai Municipal Administration of Radio and Television, STVF, Shanghai Mass Art Center and the Shanghai TV Artists Association have jointly launched the public offline screening programme under INTERNATIONAL TV SHOWCASE to create a “TV Festival at our doorstep” and make art readily available to nourish the soul. Tickets for 18 venues, including Power Station of Art, China Art Palace, INLET , and the Yunjian Granary Cultural and Creative Park were sold out at noon on June 12 instantly after the booking channel was open, with additional sessions arranged there. There were altogether 35 offline screenings, including 9 expert-guided screening sessions and 8 meet & greet sessions with the casts.
The screenings were carefully curated to encompass eight units, including parent-child content, domestic animation, humanities, and overseas hit dramas. There are not only the Chinese documentary A LONG CHERISHED DREAM and the Chinese animation YAO-CHINESE FOLKTALES, but also works from the UK, Italy, Finland, France, Poland, Belgium, Russia, Japan and the US. Among them, it is the first time for British documentaries Wild Paradise, SEVEN DAYS ON MARS and the Finnish documentary KARAOKE PARADISE to meet with Chinese audiences. The public offline screening programme has opened up a variety of viewing options for the general public and redefined the activity of “watching TV”. The British director Malcolm Clarke, who gave a guided appreciation of the documentary film A LONG CHERISHED DREAM at the launch ceremony of the screening, said in an interactive session with the audience: “Eight years ago, movies were the most influential visual medium, and today we find that both TV streaming and online broadcasting have become a very dynamic and growing industry with a huge audience base.” Watching TV is no longer just about sitting on the couch in the living room, as it’s turning into a new, trendy urban lifestyle with events like public offline screening taking root among the people.
During the festival, the lists of “Top 10 Best Film and TV Shooting Locations” and “Most Promising Film and TV Shooting Locations in Shanghai in 2023” were made public in parallel. These film and television shooting locations, embodying the new cityscape of Shanghai, also distill its rich legacy. The chemistry between “film and television” and “cultural tourism” has allowed more people to immerse in the charm and poetry of Shanghai at STVF.
To recap this year’s STVF, we can find that the five major sections of the Opening Ceremony, the STVFORUM, the STVF Market, the Magnolia Awards Ceremony and the public offline screening, adding glamour to each other, have unleashed a kaleidoscope of art for us. And from the TV screen to the entire city, either “causing sensations” or “nourishing subtly”, STVF, with sincerity and warmth, is committed to composing a new chapter of glory of China’s television undertaking for the people together with all TV workers.