How to throw a Pangea Day party — in Shanghai

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Panthea Lee and Dan Shemie write from Shanghai:

So after weeks of plotting, scheming and ceaseless fretting, our Friends of Pangea Day event in Shanghai has gone off without a hitch. For those unfamiliar with the situation, a brief explanation: the Chinese government has launched a serious crackdown on cultural events in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics. Case in point: two weeks ago, exactly one week before the event was scheduled to begin, the government announced that it was cancelling China’s largest music festival this year. The ‘official’ reason? Local police would not be able to provide adequate security for the event. The real reason? Government anxiety surrounding current pro-Tibet sentiments worldwide.

As such, putting on a film event in China — especially as the content was not known beforehand — is tricky business. No venues would touch it (we finally got an artists’ warehouse in an industrial zone in south Shanghai), trying to figure out how to get a secure internet connection caused many sleepless nights (The Panopticon’s Great Firewall is the bane of our existence), we had to keep our events out of Chinese media (we told all Chinese journalists it was a private event to cover ourselves and make sure there were no repercussions after), and we had plans b, c, d, e and f in place for the 4-hour broadcast. We tried rerouting our connection through the US, were considering a Hong Kong option as well; had dealt with StarWorld Asia (a Pangea Day broadcaster in Asia) but with little luck; had techies in Vancouver helping us out; had Slipbox hook-ups in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal — basically, everything we could think of. Last minute (two hours before the global broadcast started), we got an illegal satellite connection to the Philippines, with a link to StarWorld. Praise be.

So yeah, it’s been a ride. We have learned more about computers than we could have ever imagined learning in a three-day period, but the result was worth it. We held an 8-hour marathon showcasing local filmmakers — there is no forum for Chinese filmmakers to show their work here, due to government regulation, as such we felt this was especially important — prior to the 4-hour broadcast we’re all seeing now. In total, we’ve got a 12-hour marathon. We’ve had roughly 1000 people come through our dingy little warehouse space, and we’re loving being able to participate in the global phenomenon.

So cheers from Shanghai — despite all the barriers, we’re seeing Pangea Day, along with all of you, in China.

Two very exhausted, but very relieved, organizers,
Panthea Lee and Dan Shemie