In case you haven’t heard of them yet, the Chopstick Brothers’ Xiao Yang and Wang Taili, they are currently two of China’s most acclaimed filmmakers. Making short internet videos based on nostalgia and social realities during their spare time, these two Beijing-based filmmakers have skyrocketed to fame and engaged a legion of followers and imitators.
The Chopstick Brothers first shot to fame when their 42-minute Old Boys (老男孩) went viral in 2010. A short film about youth, dreams and disillusionment, Old Boys is about pair of childhood friends Xiao Dabao and Wang Xiaoshuai who are now middle-aged and working as a wedding host and barber with a passion for Michael Jackson and love for the same girl of their dreams. Upon hearing the death of their idol, the two decide to enter a singing competition talent show at one more chance to pursue their dream of being famous. Despite all odds, the performance of the duo touches everyone, and a reminder of the broken dreams and helpless yearning for the past.
Following the huge popularity of Old Boys, the Chopstick Brothers followed up with another short, The Winner. The 30-minute film, which was again released on Youku.com, has already been viewed tens of millions of times. The protagonist is a man suffering a mid-life crisis and losing his moral compass in a high-pressure society — his sense of honesty and family responsibility have lapsed as he blindly pursues money and social status, at the cost of everything else. As he is about to die, he gets to relive certain moments of his life, and gets another choice at being husband and friend again. The protagonist realizes at the end that “When we learn to treasure simple happiness, then we will be winners in life.”
Considering the significant skill to tell a visual short story that is compelling, artistic and concise, it is amazing to imagine how the amateur-turned-professional Chopstick Brothers got their start in the industry. In real life, Xiao’s full-time job was shooting advertisements while Wang was a music producer. In 2005 when Wang asked him to shoot an ad, the two found a great deal in common – Michael Jackson and dedication to making good, non-commercial films. They call themselves the “Chopstick Brothers” because the two are actually very close as well.
The Chinese blogosphere has praised the filmmakers for their artistry, cinematography, wit, and masterful storytelling. The popularity of these films has also changed the way movies are being produced in China, with many now preferring Internet media with immediate online branding. Recently, the Chopstick Brothers completed two more videos, in a series called Father. Watch these shorts and tell us what you think. Could this be the beginning of a new wave of Chinese cinema?