An American woman arrives in China to retrace the steps of her deceased daughter from a video diary the daughter kept of her trip to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. A young flautist travels to Beijing to audition for a conservatory. A seamstress for a fashion company is betrayed by her jealous boss when she designs a spectacular kite for the Beijing Kite Festival.
Those are among seven winners in the short-film category of the inaugural Beijing International Screenwriting Competition, launched by the Chinese government in March as part of an ongoing strategy to expand its cultural influence and forge stronger ties to Hollywood.
The contest, which solicited stories about the country's capital and its cultural heritage, drew nearly 1,000 submissions from as many as 127 schools, colleges and universities throughout the United States.
Winners receive an all-expenses paid trip to Beijing and an opportunity to have their scripts produced in China, now the world's second-largest market for American movies.
"This groundbreaking initiative will help foster artistic collaboration and an ongoing creative dialogue between China and the U.S., and will provide an unprecedented opportunity for aspiring and established U.S. writers to obtain international recognition,'' said Huiguang Zhang, director of the cultural assets office of the Beijing municipal government.
"The people of Beijing look forward to welcoming these talented writers to China, and celebrating their achievements at the award ceremony on June 9."
In an interview Friday at the USC campus, where she was attending her daughter's graduation, Zhang described the competition as a "wonderful idea" that would help strengthen ties between the U.S. and China.
"Interest in China is increasing tremendously among young people, so this opportunity will be a good channel for that,'' she said.
Winners in the short-film category are: "You and Me" by J.S. Mayank (Loyola Marymount University), "Morning Song" by Pamela Johnson (American Film Institute), "701" by Maya Rudolph (Columbia University), "Plight of the Honey Bee" by Anita Gou (New York University/Tisch School of the Arts), "City Music" by Cameron White (Princeton University), "Patchwork Dreams" by Lee Quarrie (Arizona State University); "You, Me, Beijing?" by Crosby Selander (Carnegie Mellon University).
In the feature film category, the five winners are: "The Panjiayuan Diary" by Tim Plaehn; "The Monkey King" by Galen Tong, "Legend of Gong Shun Hui" by Gary Shockley, "Million Dollar Wedding Club" by Johnny Ma, and "Tusk" by Joshua Banta.
Film producer Kevin Niu serves as chairman of the competition, and honorary competition presidents include Vice Mayor of Beijing Wei Lu and two-time Academy Award-winning director Mark Harris. Harris, Tracey Trench -- producer of "The Pink Panther" and consultant for Oriental DreamWorks -- and Chinese screenwriter Heping Zhang were judges for the competition.
The contest is sponsored by the state-owned Beijing International Creative Industry Corp. Other partners include LeTV, China's biggest online distributor for TV and movies, and Harvardwood, a nonprofit group that represents Harvard University alumni, faculty and others working in the arts and entertainment industries.