Animation World
I Am What I Am - an interesting Chinese indie animated film
January 3, 2022

I Am What I Am - an interesting Chinese indie animated film

A Chinese indie feature film titled I Am What I Am got noticed for a design problem, but still hiding a great product.
At the center of the story are three teenagers from Guangdong province who want to learn how to master the traditional "lion dance". A mix of ancient Chinese culture but with modern day settings, unlike the country's highest-grossing films of recent years which have mostly told fantasy and mythological Chinese stories set in the same years.

Directed by Haipeng Sun, I Am What I Am (also known as Lion Dance Boy), is a Chinese animated feature film that arrived in theaters on December 17th last year, and was immediately criticized on social media for... the eyes.

Made with high-quality CG animations, its authors have tried to push realism to the maximum but with a somewhat particular character design, especially that of the eyes, which are relatively very small. A reversal of the trend compared to the beauty standards that social networks (and influencers) try to impose, using filters that often sharpen elements such as the eyes (following the more oriental realities such as the Japanese ones).

A choice that some have imagined more of a mockery and close to the Chinese racist stereotypes of many decades ago still unforgettable (small and almond-shaped eyes).

Producer Miao Zhang commented: "The almond-shaped eyes of the characters show that we lack aesthetic confidence, and our aesthetic vision of animation has been homogenized given the enormous influence of Japanese and American animation."

The issue of racism is, however, a side issue. Independent animation leads its authors to search for new paths and new designs, something that the American industry (for example) tends to completely flatten, using the same styles even for decades. Experimentation at the moment is more of a chimera, as for example is the film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but it is hoped that in the future it will become normality and push artists to dare more and more.

Beyond these accusations, the film I Am What I Am has however become very popular and with excellent reviews, rated with scores from 8.3 to 9.5 by the Chinese platforms Douban and Maoyan, cashing in on 165 million yuan (about $26 million) in a few weeks.

Outside Home Territory, the film screened in Los Angeles at Animation Is Film (October 2021).

Here the trailer and a poster:

[ Fra - source CartoonBrew ]
Katsuhiro Otomo
Torino Comics

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