Dragon Boat Race

Bruce Lee and the Beijing Opera Star in Christian Borstlap’s Race Through Chinese History

The spectacle of the Dragon Boat Race, held annually throughout China, inspires filmmaker Christian Borstlap to voyage through seminal events in Chinese culture in today’s animation. The aquatic national occasion on June 23 celebrates the life of Qu Yuan, a Chinese statesman and poet who flung himself into the Miluo River in protest against imperial corruption, as part of the Duanwu festival marking the summer solstice. To pounding drums, teams comprised of around 20 paddlers compete in brightly colored, ceremonially decorated boats ornately carved with potent dragon imagery at their bow and stern. “I looked for a visual link in the design of the boats which wouldn't make it too old fashioned,” explains Borstlap of his film's aesthetic cues. “These circle-shaped dragon scales then became the key element, and the basis for much of the design.” In Borstlap’s short, the 2,000-year-old tale segues into a vivid panorama taking in the country’s most monumental events, from the invention of papermaking and woodblock printing to the rise of Bruce Lee and the triumphant Beijing Olympics. Asked which moment in Chinese history he’d go back to, Borstlap was unequivocal: “The invention of gunpowder! And a cup of tea with Bruce Lee would have been nice...”

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