Interview with Zheqiang Zhang, winner of Bucharest Fashion Film Festival’s competition.
Between September 23rd and 26th, the 5th edition of the Bucharest Fashion Film Festival took place in Bucharest. BFFF is the first Romanian event in at the intersection between film, advertising and fashion. The event brought together cult films in the Dressing The Cinema section, whose common denominator was the veil as an object that hides many political and socio-cultural meanings, documentaries about revolutionary designers and photographers, as well as the consequences of the obsession for beauty. The festival also brought an event where emerging young directors, directors of photography, photographers and stylists were able to present their portfolios to a jury of professionals. BFFF also included a collaborative exhibition that aims to explore the authenticity of fashion, but also in the private space, in the relationships we build with our own clothes.
The fifth edition of the Bucharest Fashion Film Festival included an international competition section, where over 100 fashion short films entered. In the 2021 edition, BFFF offered four awards. Fresh Perspectives, dedicated to a low-budget film that addresses a relevant theme in a nonconformist way, was given to the short film Stories from a Twelfth Floor Hotel Room (r. Zheqiang Zhang) – an allegorical journey imagined from a room on the 12th floor during lockdown, produced in collaboration with Google Earth. “First of all, I want to emphasize that I perceived it as a perfectly formed film, with a beginning, the unfolding of the action and a climax. The film’s dramaturgy, the alternation of global and local themes and scale, the synthesis of improvised ingenuity and quality graphic images give the film a unique atmosphere. Particularly impressive was the fact that it provokes emotion against the background of a miniature review of the evolution of the universe and humanity. I think it’s almost impossible to get a similar effect for the viewer without using acting and people as the main components of the film,” commented Grigor Devejiev, Creative Director Jam Project and member of BFFF’s jury of film, advertising and fashion professionals from the local and international scene.
The short film is directed by Zheqiang Zhang, Creative Director of Pseudonym, a Danish interdisciplinary art and design studio, that creates fashion and art objects, films and household items in collaboration with small-scale manufacturers and traditional craftsmen. Zheqiang Zhang share with us more about the film. Tell us about the intention behind this eerie, voyage-like short film. How does the eeriness contribute to your concept?
Well, the film is more of an allegorical phantasm born out of isolation during the pandemic lockdown. The eeriness—that’s an interesting perspective.
I find it rather optimistic.
What is the story of the travelling scarf? What does it stand for and why did you choose this specific object for this voyage?
I was stuck in Singapore when Covid lockdowns just went into effect. What was a simple familial visit turned into an isolating, surreal, and challenging 10-month experience—something (that) I think most of us can collectively relate to.
But it was also during this time that I taught myself to animate and made “Stories from a Twelfth-Floor Hotel Room”. It gave me respite and catharsis and purpose. On many levels, the film exemplifies that journey.
The story travels through time and space. What are the key elements that symbolize this passage? How were they chosen?
In some ways, they bear reverence to the films and film makers I admire.
Stanley Kunitz famously said, End on an image and do not explain it. An image—if it’s done right—should embody the exposition of feeling. I’d like to think that this film holds up itself, that it gently nudges the viewer to arrive at some personal and irreducible idea.
In the beginning of the film, the narrator dubs the Earth and Nature as “rude”. Is that a synthesis of what we are about to watch, of the condensed history of Earth?
I wouldn’t want the bear the responsibility of that kind of grand statement. I feel that much like in literature, film invariably becomes stale and unbearable when directors begin to signal over the film to the viewer. It loses its authenticity with its forced manner of authorial presence, with the sense of the film-maker as god, or as a pedantic intellectual, or a celebrity, or at the very least somebody who counts. It becomes rather tedious.
But what I will say is that the opening dialogue is an excerpt from Walt Whitman’s beautiful 1856 poem Song of the Open Road. If anything, it is a celebration of travel and the outdoors—something we now cherish.
The film is made in collaboration with Google Earth. How did you choose this medium and how did you work with it?
Through my company, Pseudonym, we’ve been continuously exploring new technologies and immersive experiences that challenge our perceptions of physical and virtual reality. 3D modelling and photogrammetry works as a great (albeit unstable) conservator of time, and a narrative mechanism through which to shape the future.
I’m currently working on a new project that I hope to share with the BFFF community next season.