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Cinevolution Media Arts fills film gap in city

Society runs year-round programs, hosts annual festival and mentors new artists

As a contemporary Chinese filmmaker and journalist immigrating to a foreign country, Ying Wang was immediately attracted to the art scene.

"In the '90s in China, you couldn't be exposed to modern art and new ideas," said Wang, who came here in 1996.

A passionate fan of film and arts, she was soon attending film festivals across the province.

When she came to Richmond, Wang decided the city was in need of its own international film festival.

What she lacked in knowledge to start up a festival, she made up for in passion and determination.

In 2007, Wang founded Cinevolution Media Arts Society, along with former partner, Taiwan-born Rachel Fan.

"At the time, Richmond didn't have a real film festival so we were filling the gap," she said.

The pair launched the Asia Film Festival, which morphed into Your Kontinent Richmond International Film & Media Arts Festival.

It features documentaries, dramas, site-specific art installations and animation from international and local filmmakers.

"The name change reflected our idea of inclusiveness," said Wang. "Richmond is a global village, therefore I felt we had to reflect that by offering films from all over the world, not just Asian movies."

Your Kontinent has grown each year and also features a dim sum movie night and Theatre Under the Star.

"The media art installations are in large shipping containers, which will be outside the cultural centre and in various other public spaces during the festival," added Wang.

"Last year, more than 2,000 people attended the four-day festival."

Recently, Cinevolution was awarded the Artistic Innovation Award at the 2012 Richmond Arts Awards held last month in Richmond City Hall.

"As a fairly new arts group in Richmond, Cinevolution was very humbled and grateful to the support, especially in front of so many pioneers in the art field, who have been making contribution to the community for years and decades," said Wang.

Cinevolution has also grown into much more than a film festival host.

The group also puts on a number of different programs throughout the year - Hands-On Filmmaking and media arts workshops, Show and Tell Youth Media Screening, Community Digital Storytelling, Film Appreciation Night and the Dream Project.

"All of these programs are free to the public," said Wang.

Earlier this month, Cinevolution hosted a film screening of Sea to Sea.

"Forty people attended and after the screening there was dialogue between the movie goers, the panelists and the filmmaker," said Wang.

The not for profit organization also mentors young, aspiring filmmakers, helping them create and screen their own short films.

It is run by artists and filmmakers - all of whom are volunteers and share Wang's vision and love of arts and culture.

Volunteers such as Ada Lee, 24, and Yun-Jou Chang, 23, bring new ideas into Cinevolution, said Wang.

"Ada and Yun-Jou have great energy and are bringing innovative ideas to the Youth Day program," added Wang.

Chang volunteers as media and public relations coordinator for the society and Lee helps with the Youth Day program.

Chang, a recent University of B.C. graduate came on board because she said, "It's important to me to get involved in the community and especially the arts movement here."

"I was attracted by the great energy and how passionate everyone is about what they do," added Chang.

Lee and Chang work out of the Media Lab, which the city has loaned for the organization's use.

"The youth program is by youth for youth," said Chang. "For the film festival, we are working on a mini night club in one of the 9x9 shipping containers."

Like Wang, Lee is a film buff.

"I've attended lots of film festivals and I always wanted to volunteer in the community so this is a perfect fit for me," said Lee.

"Hopefully, we can inspire more youth to get involved."

This year's Your Kontinent Richmond International Film & Media Arts Festival happens July 19 to 22.

"This year's featured artist is Richmond's Margaret Dragu," said Wang.

"We will have a retrospective of her work over the years and Margaret will perform on the evening of Saturday, July 21."

In the meantime, the next film screening is on Friday, June 22 from 6: 30 to 9 p.m.

"The movie, Clean Bin, is about zero waste by a Vancouver filmmaker," Wang said.

"All the screenings are free by donation."

As to the future of Cinevolution, Wang said she hopes to continue to breathe new life and energy into it.

"I'd like to continue to shape Cinevolution by bringing on board more artists and activists who believe in the power of films and art," she added.

For more information about Cinevolution Media Arts Society, located in the Media Lab of the Richmond Cultural Centre, 7700 Minoru Gate, visit www.cinevolutionmedia. com.