Guangyu Zuo, Yaping Zhen and Yuyan Chen won a video competition organised by the higher education institutions in Tampere. The winning video can be watched here. Photograph: Jonne Renvall
Three Chinese exchange students won a video competition with the first film of their lives
Arrival in Tampere at the beginning of September was followed by a victory party in October. The Chinese exchange students won a surprise victory, which they had been unable to imagine when they first arrived in Finland.
Yuyan Chen, Yaping Zhen and Guangyu Zuo won the AllBrightStudents! video competition organised by the higher education institutions in Tampere, the Unipoli Tampere network and Tredea, the Tampere Region Economic Development Agency. Producing the film only took about a month.
The success was a surprise because the video was the first the three students ever made together. Of the three, only Yaping Zhen studies cinematography in China. At Tampere, she studies photojournalism as does Yuyan Chen. Guangyo Zuo studies intercultural communication.
There is nothing calculated about their film careers.
“We saw the announcement about the competition and said let’s do it,” Yuyan Chen says.
The video is the first of its kind, a co-production by the three since only Yaping Zhen, who studies film-making, has prior experience of making short films.
“My dream is to become a professional film-maker,” she says.
From the library to the lake via a café
The winning video is a fast-paced romp with rapidly changing images that take the viewer from the university library in the Linna building to the Alakuppila café and a sauna. The video ends with a scene in which the main character jumps into a lake off a pier.
“We wanted to make the film in order to show our respect and thanks to Finland and to the people whom we have met here,” Guangyu Zuo says.
Where did you get the idea?
“We discussed it a lot and almost fought over it,” Yuyan Chen says.
“We talked and we argued. We first had to choose the three locations and then we figured out how to connect those three places,” says Yaping Zhen.
The students were asked to make a film about two of the most inspiring things or places in their educational institutes in Tampere. They were also asked one positively weird thing about their experience in Finland or in Tampere in a video of maximum two minutes.
“Jumping in the lake off the pier was the odd thing, and the inspiring things were the Alakuppila café and the Linna library.”
What about the sauna? Was it inspiring or odd?
“The sauna was not the odd thing, just the bit about jumping in the lake.”
There were other alternatives for locations. For example, a lecture hall or the lunch restaurant because Finnish food is so different from Chinese food.
“We talked about those sweets, which are like the Chinese herb. You know, those black things?”
Do you mean salmiakki, the salty licorice?
“Yes, that’s it. We abandoned the idea because it would have been hard to depict the sweets in a video.”
Guangyu Zuo plays the main character in the library and Alakuppila parts. Where did you get the courage to jump in the lake at the end?
“That wasn’t me,” Guangyu Zuo says.
The jumper was Yuyan Chen, but he did not jump in the lake for real.
“I first tried to go in and tested the water with my toes but it was very cold. I just pretended I jumped.”
Films obviously make anything possible.
The Finnish traffic caused a culture shock
The three students are here only for the autumn semester, in other words, just for four months. Was it a culture shock to come to Finland?
“The Finnish traffic was the only reason for a culture shock. The traffic is terrible in China, but in Tampere every driver lets the pedestrians go first. This was our first experience of Finland. It was hard to get used to that.”
Are you already planning new films?
“We have so many exams and essays and then we have a photography project with immigrants and refugees in Tampere. Those things will take up a lot of our time so we don’t know if we will have the time to do another film.”
They are also working on a documentary project about exchange study opportunities for other Chinese students.
“We want to show what it is like to study abroad.”
Would you recommend Finland to other Chinese students?
“Sure, why not?”