Get to Know Indie Filmmakers Shih Cheng

In this week's installment of our series on some of the most interesting independent animators working today, we profile Chinese animator Shi Chen. His cutout films take their time getting into personal narratives and addressing larger social and cultural issues in China.

In a nutshell Chen's poetic and personal works, which incorporate his love of silent film and stop motion, Igor Kovalyov's designs and distinctive pacing (influenced by Robert Bresson), explore individual stories of love, loss, and desire, while at the same time offering insight into contemporary Chinese history as well as offering insight into China's contemporary history.

Where to Start: Flies in a Restaurant (2018). Told from the perspective of a rotating ceiling fan, this patiently paced cutaway film follows a cook as he chases a fly in a local restaurant (with a banner on the wall that reads "The Revolution is Not a Dinner Party") as a variety of customers mingle, eat, and sleep. People come and go, and we get glimpses of life outside the restaurant. Through action and inaction, Chen comments on the complacency of those who are indifferent or indifferent to social and political issues.

Next to watch: Swallows (2014). Set either in a room of a large house or in a small domestic space shared by three women, "Swallows" explores the generational differences between a grandmother, her contemporary daughter, and her abandoned granddaughter. It is not simply about a troubled family; it reflects the shifting beliefs of individuals in an ever-changing Chinese society.

Other major works: Winter Solstice (2008), Mahjong (2013)

Influences: Igor Kovalyov, Fujiko Fujio (Japanese manga artist), Lo Ta-yu (Taiwanese singer-songwriter).

He says: "The starting point is often a photograph or an ancient painting. The temperament of people in older times is very different from the temperament of people today. This difference is very disturbing. We often imagine the real lives of such people and imagine their stories. Our animated short films bring these stories to life and are very inspiring to us and actually soothe and heal our hearts."

Currently in production: Chen's latest short, "The Loach" (2022), about a woman and her baby adrift on a boat, was recently screened in Zagreb and will be shown in Hiroshima, Ottawa, and several other festivals.