Here’s a column dedicated to unadulterated positivity. In each “Big Up,” we’ll profile someone doing something cool in Shanghai that you should know about. This could be anyone from a treat shop worker to an artist, or a cat lady.
In this first edition, we’re Big-Upping Marcin Gajewski from Holland via Poland, a dude whose videos you’ve likely seen in many a 19RMB cab ride. But you may not know the dude behind the lens. The Dude is an appropriate title for this character, known in real life as Mr. White, or more recently Mr. Grey, due to his odd and rigid insistence on only wearing one color. What would compel someone to wear only the color white for an entire decade, from coat to socks? We won’t examine that here, but we’ll get into Marcin’s work as a director and a curator through his monthly “Mini Film Fest” nights at The NUT, an art collective and space in Huangpu District, as well as an annual weekend-long film festival he puts on for free.
The monthly film night happens to fall on this Thursday, November 14th at 7PM at 162 Yongnian Lu, near Huangpi Nan Lu. 上海市永年路162号(靠近黄陂南路),一楼. Don’t be that late bro! This month’s theme is technology. It’s non-profit, so free entry to a world where you can catch cheap beers/wine and watch some amazing short films you probably won’t catch anywhere else. There’s still loads of film and video that exists outside the cloud. There’s around ten films each time, with an intermission sesh and elaborate introductions by Mr. Grey. You’re likely to make some new friends here too, with lots of creative types, artists, architects, film nerds, and characters in the mix.
So if you’ve never been to these nights, your connection to Mr. Grey is probably those WOW! Fitness ads, called “WOW男WOW女” in the taxi ad- video machines. He directs those now. This series, shown on TouchMedia screens in Chinese taxis, stars two neon-clad exercise fiends seemingly on anti-depressants x speed and wilding-out in a public awareness campaign for healthy living through exercise and diet. Take the stairs, lift those water coolers, do some stretching, and eat some vegetables
For those without the pleasure, the taxi-riding-class AKA le bourgeoisie has watched and possibly tried to avoid this video series for years now in cab backseats in Shanghai and other major cities. The campaign took a surreal turn in April 2013 when Marcin became the director and introduced kung-fu and oil-swilling foes in a colorful video-game esque adventure . When the junk-food boss pops up with a chicken drummy of death, the common-man-turned hero devours an apple and hurls the core to win the healthy [sic]. Really these are the closest things to PSAs in our Shanghai life and wowever you feel about these loud ads, they’re memorable and preach a message anyone can agree on – eat healthy and exercise. Recently WOW! started seat-belt use ads too, a critical message in a place with creative driving.
Aside from directing PSAs* and guest lecturing at Tongji University on the Architecture Department in the ‘Filming Architectures’ course, Marcin runs the aforementioned Mini Film Fest nights, which reel into a [also free] full-on weekend film festival once a year. The weekly film parties began at home years ago but eventually grew too big and now happen at The NUT, an art collective/gallery space that once lived in the last days of a now-demolished 被拆了Jing An building. I remember early Thursday parties there and Simon from Austrailia DJing circa 2009. In 2012 The NUT reemerged in what used to be Luwan district, which was incorporated into Huangpu district in 2011. Lot of changes in Shanghai.
An evening at the Mini Film Fest night could witness anything from from French cartoons about cats and omlettes to rather disturbing and grim bits. These are the dubplates of shorts and dude has the guanxi in the film world to cop great selections. Past themes include “Life in the City,” “Animate!”, and “ Under Water Love.”
Once a year, the night becomes a full weekend – a proper miniature film festival in Jing An. I DJed an intermission at last year’s festival, which brought a really chill and diverse group of folks. All attendants went home with a wooden xiao long bao steamer and an apron to remember the food-themed weekend. Drinks were free and ice-cream sandwiches were sold. People laughed, cried, and just got super into it. I became Weibo friends with a girl selling organic eggs for charity. Just a free party to enjoy some quality films, out of sheer love for the art. And that’s why were Big-Upping Mr. White/Grey/Marcin this week. Also he’s Polish by birth but grew up in Amsterdam from a young age – more proof that Dutch people are just really chill folks, not counting the conservative Dutch in Michigan. Big up Holland.
Mini Film Fest Night happens this Thursday at The Nut, 162 Yongnian Lu, near Huangpi Nan Lu, a quick walk from Madang Lu metro station (Line 9).
More about Marcin’s work as a filmmaker and photographer over on his website. He doesn’t exclusively do PSAs, sadly.
And a more in-depth article from 2011 about the WOW series, before Marcin took over, read this article in advertising language.