Archive for the ‘dGenerate Titles’ Category

“Overwhelming Impact”: Review of Beijing Besieged by Waste

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

bsieg2In the new issue of the journal Environmental Philosophy, Ilan Saft of Pace University reviews Beijing Besieged by Waste. Excerpts:

The verbal information provided in Wang Jiuliang’s documentary, Beijing Besieged by Waste, is staggering: Beijing, with a population of twenty million, is surrounded by hundreds of 50-meter high garbage mountains and landfills… While these are the main informative details provided in the film, it is the force of the film’s images that produces its overwhelming impact. A new environment – the images show – has ben formed around the modernized city of Beijing. In this environment there is no ground; it is a new kind of multilayered landscape, a garbagescape, the product of daily life in a megalopolis and the working-and-living environment for tens of thousands of people…


“An Observational Powerhouse:” Review of Zhao Liang’s Crime and Punishment

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Twin Cities area film programmer Kathie Smith reviews Zhao Liang’s documentary Crime and Punishment, which screened earlier this year at the Trylon Microcinema, as part of a series of Chinese independent films programmed by Smith:

Crime and Punishment, Zhao Liang first feature length documentary, is an observational powerhouse. Bringing direct cinema back from the ashes, Zhao adds another dimension to China’s dichotomies by focusing on a small forgotten corner of this rising superpower. Situated on his home turf, Zhao is given unprecedented access to a local police station along the North Korean border. Mean streets these are not. Instead we have life on the margins where ambitions of any kind have left this town behind. The police are candid, the situations are often defy logic, and the arrests add up to little more than harassment masquerading as control. Even moments of idleness seem to be cloaked in an aura of base tedium: cleaning a gun, fiddling with a pair of handcuffs or a bout of wrestling in the snow.


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 a Hit at Brooklyn Film Festival; Screens Next Week at Northside Festival

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Indiewire lends a double dose of coverage to Pema Tseden’s Old Dog on its New York festival premiere at the Brooklyn Film Festival. The film screens in New York City again next Monday June 18 at the Northside Festival in Brooklyn.

In his review of the film, Indiewire critic Christopher Bell gives the film an “A” rating, declaring it “a true gem and the mark of an especially skilled director.”


“Remarkable” Transition Period reviewed in The Economist

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Singing karaoke with Taiwanese investors, smearing birthday cake on the cheeks of an American factory owner, knocking back baijiu, a Chinese spirit, with property developers: Guo Yongchang would do anything to attract investment to Gushi, a county of 1.6m people in Henan province, where he served as party secretary. His antics are recorded in “The Transition Period”, a remarkable fly-on-the-wall documentary about his last months in office, filmed by Zhou Hao.

The Economist reviews Zhou Hao’s The Transition Period and places the film in the context of how local-level government operates, and the effect of its policies on shaping China’s economy and society:

When the government urged the banks to support its 2008 stimulus effort, local governments scrambled to claim an outsized share of the lending. The result is a local-government debt burden worth over a fifth of China’s 2011 GDP.

The worst abuses, however, involve land. Local officials can convert collectively owned rural plots into land for private development. Since farmers cannot sell their land directly to developers, they have to accept what the government is willing to pay. Often that is not very much.

The Transition Period is available as part of the dGenerate catalog.

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.


In Focus: Urban Development, Environmental and Personal Consequences

Monday, May 21st, 2012

This new series will spotlight 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.

"Beijing Besieged by Waste" (dir. Wang Jiuliang)

The jargon of “development” is paramount to any consideration of today’s China, from the obvious economic connotations to all the infrastructural expansion that is implicated within. Urbanization, structural changes, and population redistribution have long outpaced established modes of growth and the way life was once understood to be organized.

The signs of development are omnipresent; the vernacular we speak, the smoggy air we breathe. The immediate physical effects of such breakneck urban growth are readily apparent throughout China, but the deeper repercussions—be they ecological or social—of a culture of “development” remains perhaps largely undiscovered.

The documentaries below represent a few attempts to break down some of the effects of this whirlwind of urban development as the philosophy of development at all costs weighs heavily on the physical and social environment of a nation in flux.


“World Film Locations: Beijing” Available for Pre-Order

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Beijing in focus

A new book from the World Film Locations series entitled World Film Locations: Beijing, edited by John Berra and Liu Yang, is available for pre-order. This exciting new title features “a series of spotlight essays and illustrated scene reviews, a cast of seasoned scholars and fresh new voices explore the vast range of films – encompassing drama, madcap comedy, martial arts escapism, and magical realism – that have been set in Beijing. Unveiling a city of hidden courtyards, looming skyscrapers, and traditional Hutong neighborhoods, these contributors depict a distinctive urban culture that reflects the conflict and tumult of a nation in transition. With considerations of everything from the back streets of Beijing Bicycle to the forbidden palace of The Last Emperor to the tourist park of The World, this volume is a definitive cinematic guide to an ever-changing and endlessly fascinating capital city.”


Cinema Scope Magazine Honors Chinese Filmmakers among “50 Best Filmmakers Under 50”

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

To celebrate its 50th issue, Cinema Scope has compiled a list of fifty directors under 50 who represent “the future of cinema.” Much to the pride and delight of all those who champion Chinese voices in contemporary cinema, Cinema Scope has chosen to honor several significant Chinese filmmakers: Liu Jiayin, director of Oxhide and Oxhide II, Zhao Liang, director of Petition and Crime and Punishment, Pema Tseden the Tibetan director of Old Dog, Jia Zhangke, director of such films as Unknown Pleasures and The World, as well as the 2008 documentary Dong, and Wang Bing, director of Coal Money and Man With No Name.

Director Liu Jiayin and her parents in "Oxhide"

Profiling Liu Jiayin, Andréa Picard praises Liu and the Oxhide series, musing “Who was this filmmaker who so maturely delineated the space of her imagination, carving a humanist monument from next to nothing?”
On these remarkable films that measuredly unfold an intimate world of family minutiae, Picard discusses Liu’s “carefully calibrated yet warmly sensual sound and image construction, a droll humanism, and, ultimately, a feisty hopefulness.”


Zhao Liang

Zhao Liang, called a “poet of justice” by reviewer Albert Serra, is described as an artist who “cannot simply describe social injustices, lies, abuses of power…because as an author he’s realized that “reality” itself is unjust and abusive. And it’s absurd to find a way to fight against it because reality has as much power as the “system” does in China.” Of the careful examination of power and artistry at play in Zhao’s Crime and Punishment and Petition, as well as his dedication to pulling back the layers of the grueling injustices of Chinese beaurocracy, Serra writes: “With any other topic he could have been involuntarily serving the propaganda of what he’s criticizing, but the issue of the absence of justice turns our hearts with so much power that this is impossible.”


@IndieFilmmakers, A Micro-Blog Roundup

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

To recognize commenting being restored on Chinese microblogging sites, we’ve once again rounded up some of our filmmaker’s micro-dispatches on Sina Weibo, China’s version of twitter. This month, some of China’s preeminent indie filmmakers weigh in on politics, international indie film, and funny hats:

On 4/7, Zhao Liang, director of Crime and Punishment, blogged:

This is my dream: I hope that China’s next generation of directors can – in any theater, in any film – say whatever is in their heart without fear. Our generation of filmmakers is working hard with the hope that the next generation will be free from fear.