Beyond the Rings records the life of five ordinary people affected by the Olympics. They are an architect, an athlete, a primary school student, a worker and an artist. They write their own Olympic stories from different perspectives, reflecting the passion and perseverance of the people to participate in the Olympics.
Beyond the Rings is one of three short films in the series marking the 40th anniversary of New China's return to the Olympic Family selected by Xinhua News Agency during the Beijing International Sports Film Week. Shen Nan, producer of the short film, recently told our reporter the story behind the film’s creation.
Reporter: Many angles are available for a film about the Olympics and the Olympic spirit. Why did your crew choose the theme in Beyond the Rings? Are there any stories behind it?
Shen Nan: 2019 marked the 40th anniversary of the restoration of New China's legal rights in the International Olympic Committee. Over the past four decades, China has seen great development in sports. Now as China prepares for the 2022 Winter Olympics, we chose this topic based on these objective conditions. I think it is meaningful to make a nodal record at this time. Moreover, in the process of tracing history, we can also be more aware of where we are and where we are going.
The whole series is divided into three parts; one is the core perspective, i.e. China’s competitive sports development and three bids for the Olympics; one is the external perspective, which tells the story of the exchanges between the three generations of the Samaranch family and China; and the last one is Beyond the Rings.
In Beyond the Rings, we used a normal perspective to show the Olympics’ penetration into Chinese society, its transformation of many people’s life trajectories as well as its extensive and profound impact beyond the event itself. This idea stemmed from our own experience as sports reporters. In fact, we are also among those whose lives were changed by the Olympics. The lingering sound of this grand narrative is simple and moving, and justifies the social value of the Olympics.
Reporter: Beyond the Rings tells the stories of China and the Olympics over the past four decades. It is not easy to describe such a long history clearly and profoundly within 30 minutes. What do you think was the most difficult aspect during the filming and production?
Shen Nan: It was indeed very difficult. I think the most difficult thing was to look at the overall situation from the perspective of ordinary people. But daily life is trivial, and dramatic moments also pass by. Our production cycle was pretty tight and the duration was limited, so we had to give up some interesting details which were helpful in expressing the characters’ personalities but were a little removed from the theme.
Reporter: The film invited an architect, an athlete, an elementary school student, a worker and an artist to tell their stories with the five rings. There are many types of occupations, why did you choose these five? Is there any story or symbolic meaning?
Shen Nan: First of all, the choice was based on their connections with the Olympics. The architect was a designer of Olympic venues and even a presenter of the Olympic bid; the elementary school student who learned skating during the ice and snow sports fever became a star in the Winter Olympics promotion activities; the worker became a promoter of Olympic culture because of the atmosphere of the era and his perseverance and love for sport; the artist, because of his cross-cultural communications, became a special “bridge” in a special period and then a sports sculptor; and the athlete, thanks to the opportunity of the times and his own efforts, made a successful transformation.
In addition to their different occupations, they actually represent different backgrounds. Apart from Yang Yang, the presenter of the Olympic bid, the identities of the other four have nothing to do with the Olympics. However, due to various reasons, these four were involved in the Olympics, and have virtual or real connections with the great event.
Why them? To give two examples: elementary school students represent the future, which is what we were looking for. But who was the most suitable? This was a dilemma. We happened to see Ma Zhongyuan and Yang Yang in the same scene in a video of the countdown to the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, and then decided to choose her.
Another example, artists or sculptors were who we originally wanted to include in the film because art itself is a part of the Olympic culture, and sculpture in the ancient Olympics was the carrier of sports beauty and spirit. In modern times, Olympic sculptures, boasting more profound and more diversified connotation, often become important landmarks in Olympic cities. And the reason for choosing Yuan Xikun is his connections with Juan Antonio Samaranch, and his sculpture of Coubertin's statue happened to allow us to step over to the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland.
Reporter: What does the production team want to bring to the audience through this film?
Shen Nan: Over the past decade, some changes have taken place in the relationship between China and the international Olympic movement, and in the Chinese people’s feelings toward the Olympics. Of course, this is very natural; along with the process of Beijing and Zhangjiakou’s joint bid and preparation for the Winter Olympics, a representative question is raised by the public: Does the Olympics have anything to do with me?
When we made this short film, on the one hand, we tried to answer this question, and on the other, we wanted to convey our value orientation, that is, "Olympics must be connected to the public and must take root amid the people. Its essence is in the palace, but its vitality is on the streets."
Reporter: What do you think is the biggest reason for Beyond the Rings to stand out and become one of the films recommended to participate in the FICTS? In other words, as a producer, what is it in the film that impressed the judges most?
Shen Nan: I guess it may be because of the angle of this short film. We used stories of people out of Olympic circles to talk about the "circle". To show a person's deep inner strength, you needn’t focus on his strength directly. Instead, you can show that through his strength’s influence on the surroundings.
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