Archive for the ‘CinemaTalk: Conversations on Chinese Cinema Studies’ Category

CinemaTalk: A Conversation with Professor Guo-Juin Hong on Taiwan Cinema, 1949 and Documentaries

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

By Michael Chenkin

Guo-Juin Hong is Andrew W. Mellon Associate Professor of Chinese Cultural Studies at Duke University. Hong has published articles on such topics as early Shanghai cinema, new Taiwan cinema, documentary film, and queer visual culture. His essay on colonial modernity in 1930s Shanghai was the winner of the 2009 Katherine Kovacs Essay Award, Honorable Mention, and his dissertation received the 2005 Dissertation of the Year Award, Honorable Mention, both by the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. Hong teaches courses on film theory and historiography, Chinese-language cinemas, melodrama, documentary, and visual culture.

Earlier this year Guo published Taiwan Cinema: A Contested Nation on Screen (Palgrave Macmillan). The book is described as “A groundbreaking study of Taiwan cinema, this is the first English language book that covers its entire history. Hong revises how Taiwan cinema is taught and studied by taking into account not only the auteurs of New Taiwan Cinema, but also the history of popular genre films before the 1980s. This work will be essential reading for students and scholars of Taiwan and Chinese-language cinemas and of great value to those interested in the larger context of East Asian cultural history as well as film and visual studies in general.”

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dGF: Could you tell me a little about your present interests in Chinese language cinema. What are you concentrating on right now, and what do you have planned for the future?

GJH: My book came out in February of this year and it is the first and only full-length book in English language on Taiwan cinema that covers its entire history. In that book, I looked at the question of national cinema as the core problematic because of the unique status of Taiwan. After 400 years of colonial history, Taiwan seemed to straddle between the status of nation and non-nation. Questions of national cinema seem outdated because of all the discussion of the transnational and the global. However, I find that to be over-simplistic. Even though national cinema is a very problematic category, it is still deployed at all times for other minor cinemas in relation to Hollywood. I go through the history of Taiwan cinema and I locate different critical historical moments to test the questions of nation in cinema which is think is still a very productive historio-graphical exercise.

Now that it is done, I hope that it has opened up doors for people to continue paying attention to not only Chinese language cinemas in general, but also Taiwan cinema specifically because especially in English language study, Taiwan cinema before 1982 has always been neglected. It was a situation that didn’t get at least partially corrected until a year ago when I guest edited a special issue for the Journal of Chinese Cinemas, focusing on what we call the “missing years” between 1960 and 1980. Those years were obviously important to the history of Taiwan cinema but also I think it is an important part of the larger cultural history of East Asia. This is the work I have been concentrating on the last few years.

dGF: What about your newest projects?

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CinemaTalk: Interview with Li Ning, Director of Tape

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Li Ning, director of Tape

Tape, a highly experimental documentary by performance artist, dancer and filmmaker Li Ning, made its European premiere last January at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. Since then it has screened at the MoMA Documentary Fortnight and won the Silver Award at the Yunnan Multicultural Visual Exhibitions, aka YunFest. The film makes its West Coast premiere at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts this Thursday April 7 as part of the series “Fearless: Chinese Independent Documentaries.”

The dGenerate catalog describes Tape as follows:

For five grueling years, Li Ning documents his struggle to achieve success as an avant-garde artist while contending with the pressures of modern life in China. He is caught between two families: his wife, son and mother, whom he can barely support; and his enthusiastic but disorganized guerilla dance troupe. Tape shatters documentary conventions, utilizing a variety of approaches, including guerilla documentary, experimental street video, even CGI.

dGenerate’s Kevin B. Lee interviewed Li Ning at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. The following is a transcript of the interview. Translation by Amy Yiran Xu and Isabella Tianzi Cai.

dGF: You were originally a dancer, sculptor and performance artist for many years. How did you begin to make videos? Tape was originally a dance performance piece. At what time did you decide to make Tape as a video?

Li Ning: It began in 2000. I owned a DV camera then. I used it to document my performances, with my troupe, and also our training. It started simple, and I didn’t expect myself to make a documentary. Kevin knows this, I feel strongly about Jinan. I have been seeing certain scenery and objects there for over 30 years. They have left a mark in my heart and in my head. I used this crappy camera and made my first film. It was an amateurish film, which was completed 10 years ago and lasted a little over 40 minutes. In my opinion, it was closely related to Tape. And at a deeper level it shares the same things with those in Tape, such as our human condition, our changing cityscape, the choices that each human being faces.

dGF: This concept of “tape,” how did you come up with the idea of it?

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CinemaTalk: Zhao Liang presents new documentary Together at Berlin Film Festival

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Zhao Liang, director of the acclaimed films Petition and Crime and Punishment (distributed by dGenerate), was present at the international premiere of his new documentary Together at the 2011 Berlin Film Festival. Here is an unedited video of his Q&A, conducted in Mandarin, English and some German.

In a previous post, Isabella Tianzi Cai wrote:

Together is a behind-the-scenes documentary of Chinse director Gu Changwei’s upcoming feature film Life is a Miracle (2011), which exposes the discrimination faced by HIV/AIDS patients in China. Zhao documented the interactions of the cast and crew as they came face-to-face with the disease during the production. Initially, many only showed fear because of their ignorance of the disease. Their attitude slowly started to change as they learned the science behind it… Together suggests something quite different from Zhao’s previous work style. As a matter of fact, it is not an independent production but a not-for-profit film. Zhao expressed his commitment to making it despite its source of funding because he believed in its educational value and society-changing power. As Edwards quotes him saying, “if the film has social value then it’s worth making.”

Click here to read Dan Edwards’ review of the film, and read his interview with Zhao Liang.

CinemaTalk: A Conversation with Ou Ning

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

By Dan Edwards

Ou NIng

In addition to being an artist, curator, writer, and director of the Shao Foundation, China’s cultural renaissance man Ou Ning is also an acclaimed documentary filmmaker. After making the experimental San Yuan Li in 2003 with Cao Fei and other members of the U-theque collective in Guangzhou, Ou Ning relocated to China’s capital, where he made Meishi St (2006) about the demolition of one of Beijing’s oldest areas in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympics. Both films are now part of the dGenerate Films catalogue.

In March 2010 I interviewed Ou Ning in Beijing about his filmmaking career for an article I was writing on China’s independent documentary sector for RealTime Arts magazine in Australia. Only a few select quotes appeared in that piece, but the complete interview contains a wealth of fascinating material not only on Ou’s background, but also the rise of China’s “digital” documentary generation.

Thanks to Ou Ning for his time and for speaking so openly about some controversial matters. The interview was conducted mostly in English.


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CinemaTalk: Conversation with Liu Jiayin, director of Oxhide and Oxhide II

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

This entry is part of a weeklong spotlight of newly available titles in the dGenerate Films catalog.

Director Liu Jiayin was interviewed at the Apple Store Sanlitun Beijing, as part of the “Meet the Filmmakers” series, co-presented by the Apple Store in Beijing and dGenerate Films, a series to showcase China’s newest filmmakers powered by digital technology.

Liu Jiayin was born in Beijing in 1981. At age 23, she made her debut feature Oxhide while a Master’s student the Beijing Film Academy. Oxhide has won several prizes (including the FIPRESCI award at Berlin Film Festival, Golden DV Award at Hong Kong International Film Festival, and Dragons and Tigers Award at Vancouver Film Festival) and has been called “the most important Chinese film of the past several years–and one of the most astonishing recent films from any country” (film critic Shelly Kraicer). Her follow-up Oxhide II (2009) was similarly lauded, and won awards at CinDi Seoul and was featured in the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes. She is currently a professor of screen writing at the Beijing Film Academy, and is developing the final part of her trilogy, Oxhide III.

The video of Liu’s interview is in three parts, with an English transcript following each video. Video of Part One is below. Click through to view both videos and the full transcript. Interview conducted by Yuqian Yan. Videography by Kevin Lee. English transcription and subtitles by Isabella Tianzi Cai.

Note: English subtitles for each video can be accessed by clicking on the CC button in the pop-up menu on the bottom right corner of the player. The subtitles can be repositioned anywhere on the screen by clicking on them (if they are not displaying properly, click them to adjust).

Part I.

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CinemaTalk: Conversation with Zhao Liang, director of Crime and Punishment and Petition

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

This week on dGenerate we will be featuring articles related to Zhao Liang’s acclaimed documentary Crime and Punishment to coincide with the screening of his films at Anthology Film Archives in New York City. Click here for more information on the screenings.

This article was originally published August 17, 2010.

By Kevin B. Lee

Zhao Liang

Zhao Liang is one of China’s leading artists working in video, photography and documentary film. His work examines both rural and urban realities, fast-paced progress and nostalgia, the nature of politics, and the beauty of the natural world. He clearly connects with the underprivileged, whom he considers to be the engine of society, and homes in on the everyday aspects of life ignored by public institutions. He has directed two feature documentaries, Crime and Punishment and Petition, and his videos, photos and installations have been exhibited around the world.

To commemorate dGenerate Films’ release of Crime and Punishment, what follows is a transcript from Zhao Liang’s audience Q&A following a screening of the film at the China Institute on Feburary 5, 2010. Additionally, there are excerpts from a supplementary interview with Zhao conducted by dGenerate Films’ Kevin B. Lee.

Thanks to Isabella Tianzi Cai, Vincent Cheng and Yuqian Yan for their translation of the interviews.

1. From the audience Q&A following the China Institute screening of Crime and Punishment:

Question: Could you say something about how this film has been distributed in China and how it’s been received? Has it been screened in theaters? Has it been on the television as well as on the web?

Zhao: In China, this film was screened once in Beijing Independent Film Festival. Other than that, very rarely have people had the opportunity to see films like this, unless they go to certain art galleries where they might have such films. So it is definitely hard to have distribution done in China. Right now dGenerate Films Inc. in the United States is helping me distribute it here.

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CinemaTalk: Conversation with Ying Liang at the Beijing Apple Store

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Director Ying Liang

Director Ying Liang was interviewed at the Apple Store Sanlitun Beijing, as part of the “Meet the Filmmakers” series, co-presented by the Apple Store in Beijing and dGenerate Films, an ongoing series to showcase China’s newest filmmakers powered by digital technology.

Ying Liang graduated from the Department of Directing at the Chongqing Film Academy and Beijing Normal University. He directed his first feature film,Taking Father Home (2005), which won awards at the Tokyo Filmex Film Festival, the Hong Kong International Film Festival, and the San Francisco International Film Festival. In 2006, Ying made The Other Half (2006), which is supported by the Hubert Bals Fund (HBF) from the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The film also won the Special Jury Prize at the Tokyo Filmex Film Festival.

The video of Ying’s interview is in three parts, with an English transcript following each video. Video of Part One is below. Click through to view both videos and the full transcript. Interview conducted by Gigi Zhang. Videography by Michael Cheng. English transcription and subtitles by Isabella Tianzi Cai.

Note: English subtitles for each video can be accessed by clicking on the CC button in the pop-up menu on the bottom right corner of the player. The subtitles can be repositioned anywhere on the screen by clicking on them (if they are not displaying properly, click them to adjust).

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CinemaTalk: A Conversation with Shelly Kraicer

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Shelly Kraicer

Shelly Kraicer is a Beijing-based writer, critic, and film curator. Born in Toronto, Canada, and educated at Yale University, he has written film criticism in Cinema Scope, Positions, Cineaste, the Village Voice, and Screen International. Since 2007, he has been a programmer of East Asian films for the Vancouver International Film Festival, and has consulted for the Venice, Udine, Dubai, and Rotterdam International Film Festivals.

Shelly has regularly contributed informative and insightful pieces on contemporary Chinese cinema for the dGenerate blog. This time we are pleased to present a lengthier, more casual and free-flowing conversation with Shelly. The conversation touches on the current state of independent film in China, the official and unofficial systems of film production and distribution, and the relationship between Chinese films and international audiences. The interview was conducted by Christen Cornell of Art Space China.

Christen Cornell: What’s the system which allows certain films in China to be shown in commercial cinemas and others not? In other words, what is an ‘unauthorised’ film?

Shelly Kraicer: The classic system for feature fiction films is that there are at least two stages of censorship. One submits a summary of the film, and then when that is OKed you shoot your film, and then you submit a final cut. Then there’s typically a process of negotiation, where it’s not that the thing is banned or the thing can go through – which was the old system, and that’s still how I think a lot of, maybe Western media people who aren’t so specialised think of it. You know, like the old Soviet system? We ban; we pass.

CC: Even the word ‘ban’, I think, is a really Western idea.

SK: Right. And it doesn’t work that way. The film bureau will typically give a list of comments and objections and, quite often, specific scenes or shots, or sometimes it can be a slightly more general objection. And then a filmmaker will get back to them with changes, plus, and/or negotiation about it, and depending on how good you are at schmoozing, you get close to your original cut or you have to do a lot of changes.

The films that the film bureau would say no to just aren’t submitted. So I guess that’s one reason there isn’t a lot of flat banning. You know independent filmmakers, filmmakers that work out of places like Song Zhuang – a film community in Beijing – most of them don’t even submit.

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CinemaTalk: Conversation with Zhao Liang, director of Crime and Punisment and Petition

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Zhao Liang

Zhao Liang is one of China’s leading artists working in video, photography and documentary film. His work examines both rural and urban realities, fast-paced progress and nostalgia, the nature of politics, and the beauty of the natural world. He clearly connects with the underprivileged, whom he considers to be the engine of society, and homes in on the everyday aspects of life ignored by public institutions. He has directed two feature documentaries, Crime and Punishment and Petition, and his videos, photos and installations have been exhibited around the world.

To commemorate dGenerate Films’ release of Crime and Punishment, what follows is a transcript from Zhao Liang’s audience Q&A following a screening of the film at the China Institute on Feburary 5, 2010. Additionally, there are excerpts from a supplementary interview with Zhao conducted by dGenerate Films’ Kevin B. Lee.

Thanks to Isabella Tianzi Cai, Vincent Cheng and Yuqian Yan for their translation of the interviews.

1. From the audience Q&A following the China Institute screening of Crime and Punishment:

Question: Could you say something about how this film has been distributed in China and how it’s been received? Has it been screened in theaters? Has it been on the television as well as on the web?

Zhao: In China, this film was screened once in Beijing Independent Film Festival. Other than that, very rarely have people had the opportunity to see films like this, unless they go to certain art galleries where they might have such films. So it is definitely hard to have distribution done in China. Right now dGenerate Films Inc. in the United States is helping me distribute it here.

Question: Could you explain why you made the film?

Zhao: It actually happened by chance. I was actually doing another project in 2004 somewhere around the China-North Korea border. I was there actually through connection. I was trying to document the interactions between the Chinese police officers and also the people from across the border, the whole dynamic between the border police and how they deal with people from the other side of the border. And after I got there, I realized that they were not dealing with that issue any more. Instead, I got the chance to observe their daily lives and found them fascinating. So I decided to change that particular project and make something that could actually document their daily life.

Question: I found it really interesting that the soldiers actually allowed themselves to be filmed. I just wonder how that came about and what your sense was. Did they see the problem of what was happening and want it to be made available to the public?

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CinemaTalk: Peng Tao at the Beijing Apple Store

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

This is the third of three interviews produced from the “Meet the Filmmakers” series held in Feburary 2010 at the Apple Store in Sanlitun, Beijing. The series, co-presented by the Apple Store and dGenerate Films, is an ongoing series to showcase China’s newest filmmakers powered by digital technology.

Peng Tao at the Sanlitun Apple Store, Beijing

Peng Tao is the award-winning director of Little Moth (2007) and a graduate of the Art Department of Beijing Film Academy, where he received the Outstanding Short Film Award and first prize at the 1st JINZI Awards. Peng Tao’s second feature, Floating in Memory (2009), is supported by the prestigious Sundance Institute Feature Film Program and the Hubert Bals Fund, and screened in the VPRO Tiger Awards Competition at the 2009 International Film Festival Rotterdam.

The video of Peng’s interview is in three parts, with an English transcript following each video. Video of Part One is below. Click through to view both videos and the full transcript. Interview conducted by Jane Zheng. Videography by Michael Cheng. English transcription and subtitles by Yuqian Yan and Isabella Tianzi Cai.

Note: English subtitles for each video can be accessed by clicking on the CC button in the pop-up menu on the bottom right corner of the player.

VIDEO PART ONE

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