Shanghai: Sonthar Gyal Says Festival Jury Has Role in Discovering Talent

Director Sonthar Gyal has a long history with the Shanghai International Film Festival, where he is a jury member this year. His directorial debut, “The Sun Beaten Path,” participated in the Asian New Talents section in 2011, as did his second film, 2015’s “River.” His third, last year’s “Ala Changso,” won the grand jury and best screenplay awards. “I have a deep relationship with the Shanghai festival – it facilitated my growth over the years as a director,” he said.

This summer, Gyal is back judging the short film section. In conversation with Variety on the sidelines of the festival, he emphasized how important it was to approach the job with a sense of responsibility and sincerity.

“In one’s youth, everyone has dreams but is very confused and lost, asking themselves, ‘Am I actually suited to being a director or not? What do I actually want to do? What am I good at?’ In filmmaking, knowing yourself is very important,” said Gyal.

“When mature directors shoot a feature and make some mistakes or come out with something not so great, it’s okay, because it’s already their profession. But for a young person, you have to be very careful and sincere in how you approach them.

“If you give young artists a bit of hope, then they can really develop, and perhaps find the confidence to go on to shoot a first feature. Young people really depend on something to inspire that confidence.”

Although Gyal thinks the Chinese entries this year are slightly weaker than those from other countries, he said he feels it is his role as a jury member to discover sparks of something special hidden within even mediocre works that might indicate a talent waiting to be coaxed out of its shell. “These are things that you can’t learn in school, that maybe you can’t even discover on your own — but when someone else points them out to you, it could be the thing that really sets you down the path” of becoming a director, he said.

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