Archive for the ‘Chinese Cinema Today’ Category

Interview with dGenerate Programmer Kevin Lee at

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012


dGenerate Programmer Kevin Lee, a new and robust Chinese-language website for film, recently translated an interview with Kevin Lee, dGenerate VP of Programming and Education, originally published in English at 3 Dots Water, a Chinese arts and culture site run by Michele Vicat.

If you haven’t already heard of or 3 Dots Water, be sure to bookmark them now. The former is full of news, reviews, interviews, festival coverage and articles translated from other languages into Chinese. The latter has in-depth articles on some of the most interesting developments in contemporary Chinese arts and culture. Both are essential resources for those interested in Chinese film, art and culture.


Populists or Shamans? Ethical Issues in Chinese Documentaries

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Xu Tong filming "Fortune Teller"

In China Heritage Quarterly, scholar Ying Qian writes in depth about the debate that erupted over the ethical practices of Chinese documentary filmmaking at last year’s China Independent Film Festival in Nanjing. The debate centered on the relationship between documentary filmmakers and the subjects of their films who are characterized as “subaltern,” or of the marginalized classes in China. Such subjects have formed the majority of independent documentary practice in China over the past decade.

Among the first major controversies involved the documentary Wheat Harvest by Xu Tong, concerning under what terms the film’s subject, a prostitute, consented to be filmed. In contrast, Xu Tong’s subsequent films Fortune Teller and Shattered feature a sex worker, Tang Xiaoyan, who fully consents to being filmed. In fact, she received the Nanjing festival’s inaugural Reel Character Award, intended as a way to prioritize the subject’s role presenting documentary reality to audiences and promote mutually productive collaborations between documentary filmmakers and their subjects.

In Focus: Youth in China

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

By Maya Eva Gunst Rudolph

In Focus spotlights dGenerate titles that shed light on some of the weightiest issues in contemporary China. From the environment to government corruption to youth culture, the overlapping concerns of these films create a dialogue on some of China’s most compelling stories.

"Super, Girls!" (dir. Jian Yi)

From the disillusionment of a nascent political movement to the stark inequalities of a population in cultural tilt, films about youth in China reframe the way we evaluate the nation’s past, present and future. China’s sizeable youth population has long been a driving force in the nation’s labor, political, and intellectual development. Whether this youthful energy is applied towards exploited labor or championing a favored pop star, the voices of Chinese youth can help determine a style, a zeitgeist, and a moment of history.

The wide gulf in the experiences of “youth,” however, begs the consideration of the many young people who represent one of China’s least privileged populations. From migrant labor and trafficking to the battle for education, the plight of many children and their struggle to survive is a heartbreaking challenge. The following films adopt myriad perspectives to present the condition of youth in both today’s China and in the China of the past; attitudes of curiosity, unrest, longing, and a way to see China though younger eyes.

"No. 89 Shimen Road" (dir. Shu Haolun)

In No. 89 Shimen Road, director Shu Haolun tells a classic coming-of-age story, though one of characteristics painstakingly unique to a specific time and place: his own adolescence in a long-since-demolished Shanghai neighborhood in the late 1980s. Coming off the lilting reminiscence of his documentary Nostalgia, which culls personal and collective memory from the Shanghai neighborhood of Dazhongi as it is demolished to make way for a more modern Shanghai skyline, No. 89 Shimen Road follows sixteen-year-old Xiaoli who photographs his changing world and the vital characters who occupy it. Apart from the concerns of early teenage lust and an eerie shade loss that shadows the post-Cultural Revolution atmosphere of the 1980s, Xiaoli is unwittingly swept into the spirit of the 1989 student democratic protests. Culminating in a botched attempt to join the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, No. 89 Shimen Road presents a loaded moment in both national and personal history and, through the use of black and white photographs and a deeply-felt narrative, transports the viewer effectively through Shu Haolun’s memory – to a moment that has come and gone, but still sparks.


Old Dog to Screen in Brooklyn; Special Appearance by Director Pema Tseden at Brooklyn Film Festival

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Pema Tseden‘s Old Dog will screen this and next week at the Brooklyn Film Festival and Northside Festival in Brooklyn. This award-winning film, which proudly occupies the forefront of contemporary Tibetan cinema, will screen on June 8th, June 9th, and June 18th in Brooklyn. Details below!

"Old Dog" (dir. Pema Tseden)

Friday, June 8th, 7pm
Special appearance by director Pema Tseden after the film!

Brooklyn Heights Cinema
70 Henry Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201


The Surveillance Network and China’s “Targeted Population”

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

A recent article by Charles Hutzler of the Huffington Post speaks to the unimaginable scope and breadth of citizen surveillance networks that exist in China to keep a “targeted population” of activists and “dissidents” in check. The kind of surveillance and censure that has most publicly impacted the lives and work of activist Chen Guanchang and filmmakers Ai Weiwei and Ying Liang, is omnipresent in China and perhaps more pervasive than previously imagined:

“Social activists that no one has ever heard of have 10 people watching them,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher with Human Rights Watch. “The task is to identify and nip in the bud any destabilizing factors for the regime.”

Mostly unknown outside their communities, the activists are a growing portion of what’s called the “targeted population” – a group that also includes criminal suspects and anyone deemed a threat. They are singled out for overwhelming surveillance and by one rights group’s count amount to an estimated one in every 1,000 Chinese – or well over a million.


Video Essay: Law and Disorder in Ying Liang’s THE OTHER HALF

Monday, May 21st, 2012

By Kevin B. Lee

Chinese director Ying Liang cannot return to his country. On April 28, Ying debuted his film When Night Falls at the Jeonju International Film Festival in South Korea. The film is based on the true story of Yang Jia, who killed six policemen after allegedly suffering police brutality, and whose trial stirred controversy and protest over the fairness and due process of the legal system in China. As reported by David Hudson in the Keyframe Daily, after the film was shown in Jeonju, Ying’s family, in Shanghai, and his wife’s family, in Sichuan, were visited by Chinese authorities, who also tried “to buy the rights to the film.” Ying also learned that he would be arrested if he were to return to mainland China. He currently lives and works in Hong Kong, trying to manage the well-being of his relatives back home (asking them to document every interaction with local authorities), as well the fate of his new film.


“Nothing About Cinema, Everything About Freedom” by Ying Liang

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Ying Liang has issued the following statement regarding his film When Night Falls and the recent police threats made to him and his family regarding the film. The Chinese version of the statement can be seen here.


Nothing about Cinema, Everything about Freedom

A Statement from Ying Liang

I’m experiencing quite a unique campaign for “film marketing”: every time when I finish a new film, I’d send some film stills and relevant materials to the media. But this time, what is in focus here is not the film itself. Most interview requests are not from the film-related media. It’s not that I don’t want to talk about other topics, but that the attention now is not directed to the quality of my new work.

For a filmmaker, the fact that the film has become a topic as such can’t be more embarrassing and unfortunate. What I have experienced and what I envision will happen in the future have made me to accept such a fact: “JUST CINEMA”, which indicates on the one hand that the power of cinema shouldn’t be over-evaluated, and on the other hand, cinema could achieve everything. I cannot totally agree with the latter opinion about the importance of cinema—- at least I don’t “simply”, “solely” or “absolutely” believe in such a statement. But there are people who insist that films could be so important that they would do everything to prove and guard this claim via public power and public instrument, which corners me, a negligible filmmaker, to a political or politicized predicament.


Ying Liang’s “When Night Falls” Film Stills and Trailer

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

These stills and trailer come courtesy of Ying Liang, whose film When Night Falls has become a target of much controversy after police accosted Ying’s family in their Shanghai home last month, seeking to buy the rights to the film from the Jeonju International Film Festival, who funded the work.

"When Night Falls" (dir. Ying Liang)

Since the initial threat made to Ying’s family and the prospect that he may be arrested if he returns to mainland China, Ying has returned to his teaching post in Hong Kong and has been keeping followers updated on the situation via his facebook and twitter.


Director Ying Liang Threatened by Police, Is Safe in Hong Kong

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Ying Liang (photo credit: Wenjei Cheng)

Ying Liang, the director of Taking Father Home, Good Cats, and The Other Half and a leading figure in the world of independent Chinese cinema, has reportedly had police visit his family in Shanghai. Ying, who is in Hong Kong, has been threatened with arrest if he returns to China. The harassment began following a screening of his most recent narrative feature, When Night Falls at the Jeonju Film Festival in South Korea. Writing for The New Yorker, Richard Brody reports:

The film that got Ying in trouble is his latest, “When Night Falls,” which, according to [Malaysian filmmaker and blogger Edmund] Yeo, was shown in the Jeonju film festival, in South Korea. Yeo’s post has a wide range of details about the film and the case. The movie is based on the true story of a man who was “executed in 2008 for murdering six policemen with a knife in a Shanghai police station after being arrested and beaten for riding an unlicensed bicycle.”

Yeo quotes from Ying’s post on Facebook, which states that, after the film was shown in Jeonju, his family, in Shanghai, and his wife’s family, in Sichuan, were visited and intimidated by the Chinese police, who then tried “to buy the copyright of the film” in Korea for an extraordinarily high price. Ying adds that he returned to Hong Kong (where he is currently working) and learned that he would be arrested if he goes back to China.


James Cameron on Chinese Filmmakers: “I’m not interested in their reality.”

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

"Titianic 3D" in China (courtesy

James Cameron, director of Avatar and Titanic, deep-sea explorer, and self-proclaimed “king of the world” was in Beijing earlier this week attending the Beijing International Film Festival. He spoke with Edward Wong of The New York Times and Gady Epstein of The Economist about his involvement in China, the numbers game of US-China co-productions, and the avalanche of Avatar the future may hold.

Wong, Epstein, and Cameron also discussed the censorship and quotas governing theatrical releases in China:

NYT: You must have had people talk to you to give you a briefing on the censorship process, about how it works or how it’s affected certain films here. Do you have any general thoughts on that?

Cameron: As an artist, I’m always against censorship. But censorship’s a reality, even in the U.S. We have a form of it there. We used to have the Hays commission. We now have the M.P.A.A. ratings system, which is basically a self-censorship process that prevents government from doing it. But the economic imperatives are that if you get an R rating, the studio won’t make a film that looks like it’s headed toward an R rating, and if you get a R you’ve got to cut it yourself to comply with PG-13. So it’s really just a form of censorship indirectly.”

NYT: Do you consider that the same as Chinese censorship?

Cameron: You’ve got a little more choice in it. It’s not as draconian. But I can’t be judgmental about another culture’s process. I don’t think that’s healthy.