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Online Preview: La Lampe Au Beurre De Yak / Butter Lamp

A young itinerant photographer and his assistant suggest to Tibetan nomads to photograph them in front of various background.

15 – 20 | 2012 | Documentary | France / China | Observational | Social Issues

The online preview is ended. You can still watch the trailer and read the review!

Starting from a very popular practice in China – the family  photoshoot – Butter Lamp shows us groups of Tibetan nomadic families posing for an itinerant photographer and his assistant in front of absurd and symbolic backgrounds: The Forbidden City with the giant picture of Mao, the Chinese Great Wall, the Beijing Olympic Stadium, Disneyland, the Potala Palace in Lhasa, an Hawaiian beach. All the action takes place in front of a fixed camera, but when the last backdrop is pulled up, the camera changes focus for the first time and reveals the true background which is also the true location of the set. We won’t spoil the surprise, but it is a very powerful image that well-expresses the theme of this witty experimental documentary. Apart from being a reflection on the reality and (its) representation, Butter Lamp offers in fact an insightful and delicate comment on the effects of globalization and technology, and on abusive assimilation of Tibetan culture by the Chinese and the Western world, where the Tibetans are forced to fight from a peripheral position to preserve their identity.

The visual system of the short is very simple, but extremely effective. It is the very found of this work, which was premiered at the Cannes Critics’ Week 2013, and has then toured all around the world gathering numerous awards and nominations. As stated by the director in an interview, the idea of ​​the film came looking at a Michael Bash’s picture “Warsaw 1046″, which used a similar visual system. Says Hu Wei: “I wanted to reproduce the device to photograph characters against various backgrounds. It is a practice still very popular in China. I wanted a uncluttered movie, between fiction and documentary, reality and dream, modern civilization and traditional habits, Chinese ideology and Tibetans beliefs. Today’s world is complex, conflicts are everywhere, including Tibet, but I did not want to offer a positive or negative judgment, i just wanted to show today’s changes, in its sometimes unknown reality.”

The film won the  Re / Generation “A World of Maps” Award at 021 Capalbio Cinema International Short Film Festival, because of its “ability to capture the change with an innovative twist”. The prize was awarded by the jury chaired by producer and director of the Sundance Film Festival Paul Federbush and composed by producer Marta Donzelli and journalist and film critic Federico Pontiggia.

Hu Wei was born in Beijing in 1983, he currently lives and works between Paris and Beijing. He graduated at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 2011, and at Le Fresnoy-Studio National des Arts contemporains in 2013. Besides cinema, he creates installations, sculptures and drawings.

Tommaso Fagioli

Tommaso Fagioli

Tommaso Fagioli

Founder, creative director, curator @ Good Short Films. Fond of great stories, great thinkers, great booze. My motto is, your motto.

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