The FIRST International Film Festival is an international film event held in Xining, Qinghai Province, China in July. It is hosted by the Xining Municipal People’s Government and the China Film Critics Society. Just like the meaning conveyed by the name ‘First’, it focuses on the first film work of young directors, and it is dedicated to promoting the early works of young filmmakers and encouraging the awards to be the mainstay. Since 2006, FIRST has continued to introduce many valuable new directors to the Chinese film industry. The fresh ideas and works of these new directors have brought new surprises to the film industry. Different regions and cities, different cultural contexts, and different image explorations have made Chinese and international audiences feel the power and attitude of the film. Meanwhile, these diverse creations complement the absence of key parts of the Chinese filmmaking ecosystem.
The First International Film Festival was founded in 2006 and began as a short film exhibition for college students at the Communication University of China. In 2012, the film feature film was added to the main competition unit. Up to now, the First Film Festival has covered more than 36 countries. The premiere film has 90% of the total, and the total number of films exceeds 1,000. The famous Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai once said at the opening ceremony of the First Film Festival: This film festival represents the starting point for the director and represents the future for Chinese film. In other words, it gives Chinese young directors the courage to create and enter the film industry. Especially in this era of capital manipulation, coupled with the limitations of censorship, many film projects are in trouble, and some films that enter mainstream cinemas are nothing new. The First Film Festival may allow audiences as well as filmmakers to find more possibilities for Chinese movies in this environment.
It is worth noting that the First International Film Festival not only sets up the best director, best feature film, best documentary, best performer and other regular awards but also sets up a prize named Spirit of freedom. This award recognizes the unique and original work of pioneering aesthetics. The jury is awarded the individual who has self-awareness, youth cultural value, and puts independent thinking into image practice and insists on exploratory creation. In addition, First Film Festival establishes the Financing Forum Open Pitch, young filmmakers can introduce their own movie projects publicly. This session may provide opportunities for young directors to find investment. Hu Bo, the director of The Elephant Sitting Still (2017) who took a lot of attention at the Berlin International Film Festival this year, took part in the Financing Forum Open Pitch of First Film Festival 2016 and got an investment of 700,000 to complete his movie. Moreover, First Film Festival institutes the First Training Camp, which invites scholars and filmmakers from all around the world to give lectures to young directors and film-loving college students and to develop their professional vision and interest.
2011 to 2013, the Chinese government subsidized about 1 million RMB for the First Film Festival every year. Since 2014, the film festival has been fully market-oriented. The government only provides conference, publicity, and venue support, and no funds are available. Therefore, in addition to the eight regular employees, all the activities of the annual film festival are held by volunteers.
Every year, the organizers of the festival recruit volunteers from all around the world, most of whom are college students. The selection of volunteers is extremely strict. During the festival, volunteers work very hard, and many people work even the whole night. However, they have invested a lot of enthusiasm for this film festival, because First film festival is the closest event to the film itself in China. Moreover, in the creative culture industry, the experience of participation in the industry is more important than the payment. Volunteers are willing to spend a lot of time doing these things.