This weekend the 1st Tudou Film Festival was held on the Moganshan in Zheijiang province, a 3-hour drive from downtown Shanghai. Moganshan is the total opposite of Shanghai: a quiet mountain resort surrounded by bamboo forests. Clean air, no traffic jams, and a very peaceful atmosphere. Well, normally at least, because last night I think we kept the whole mountain awake with our celebrations!
Already during the first year of Tudou we had the idea to organize a film festival. Originally we planned to do a kind of Woodstock or Burning Man kind of event somewhere around Yangshuo, but because we were still a tiny start-up at that time we did not have the resources to pull it off. But now Tudou has grown a bit bigger (over 150 employees in 5 offices all over China) and we felt that it was time to dust off our original plans. The format that was chosen was a bit different from the original idea, more like a ‘real’ film festival. People could vote for their favorite video’s on the site in several categories (a.o. best actor/actress, best script, best documentary and best animation) and the awards were given based on the users votes and the votes of a professional jury.
The festival itself was held in the old church on the top of Moganshan. I don’t think the church has been used since the heydays of Moganshan in the 1920s and 1930s, but the Tudou team (with help of the company that also does the MTV Awards) managed to turn it into a professional TV studio within a few days. A stage, a huge screen plus additional flat screens all over the church, professional lights and smoke machines, and of course a mega sound installation – and that all inside an old church.
The awards ceremony started around 6:30 PM and lasted until about 10 PM. All the top films were shown and then the jury announced the winners. All film makers/directors/podcasters were flown in, so the winners really got their Tudou award in person. Between the awards for each category there were performances, mainly by Tudou netstars. I was amazed by the talent of some of the performers.
A young boy really stole the show, he had a great performance on stage and the voice of an angel (his Tudou homepage). A Sony BMG representative who was on the jury mentioned he would consider to sign him up. Also two human beatboxer’s gave a live performance. Incredible what they can do with their voices (see this short Tudou documentary about them with English subtitles, and the Tudou homepage of one of them). The most moving performance was by a poor handicapped man in a wheel chair who earns his money by singing in the subway with his female companion. Someone filmed him (see this Tudou video) and overnight he became a star on Tudou, and now he even won one of the Tudou awards. Quite a contrast to some of the other star performances, and for me it was one of the highlights of the night.
The final part of the ceremony were the “Best of Tudou Awards”. These were given to among others the oldest podcaster (over 90 years old, he could not come to Moganshan), the one who posted the most video’s (over 2000 video’s, meaning at least 2 films per day every day for the past 3 years), and for the one with the most friends. What many people don’t know is that Tudou is actually also a sort of social network, where you can connect with friends. The number one in terms of friends is Celia, who has an amazing 20 million friends on Tudou. 20 million? Yes, even I was surprised by that figure. Celia is working at Tudou’s customer support (she was actually one of the first employees of Tudou), so she is constantly on QQ and the phone with Tudou users with questions.
The night ended with a disco party in the church, but because of the nice weather most people drank their whiskey, wine and beers on the steps leading up to the church. A night to remember for everybody!
I put a set with all pictures I took during the film festival on Flickr.com, you can see the pictures here.