Archive for the ‘Film Festivals’ Category

Punto de Vista Film Festival Celebrates Films of Pema Tseden

Monday, February 17th, 2014
Pema Tseden (Wanma Caidan)

Pema Tseden (Wanma Caidan)

The 2014 edition of the Punto de Vista Film Festival of Navarra, Spain, is an international seminar focusing on works of documentary from around the world. This year’s seminar spotlights the career of Tibet-based filmmaker Pema Tseden (Wanma Caidan) and his three feature films, The Silent Holy Stones, The Search, and Old Dog. (The latter two films are part of the dGenerate Films collection.)

As part of the program, the Festival commissioned a booklet featuring an interview with Pema Tseden by film scholar and critic Zhang Ling and an original essay appreciation of his films by filmmaker and critic Dan Sallitt. The following excerpt of Sallitt’s essay is reprinted here with permission of the Festival and the author:

Pema Tseden’s misfortune is that he will likely be pigeonholed for the foreseeable future as the most important Tibetan filmmaker; whereas he required only a few films to establish himself as one of the best and most confident filmmakers anywhere in the world.

His first feature, The Silent Holy Stones (2005), presents all the elements of Tseden’s style in mature form: a weighty compositional sense that combines spectacular depiction of landscape and a precise deployment of his human subjects; the use of strongly conceptual material in which the central concept is overstated and reiterated, both for comedy and as a distancing effect; a humorous use of repeated actions and fixity of behavior; a figural approach to performance that renders the difference between actors and non-actors immaterial; and a pessimistic vision of the frailty of spiritual values in the face of worldly desire.

2009’s The Search follows The Silent Holy Stones in its focus on the role of fiction and storytelling in our lives, but the later film veers away from conventional narrative and adopts an abstract, cyclical structure that seems at once primitive and experimental.

After this feint toward the boundaries of narrative, Tseden’s most recent film, Old Dog (2011), unexpectedly applies his approach and concerns to an elemental drama that, through the dogged, minimalist cadences of Tseden’s story construction and the grandeur of his compositions, acquires the force of mythology.

The Punto de Vista Film Seminar will be held from February 19-22 in Pamplona. Details here.

Updates on Chinese Film Festival Studies: Festival Reports and Conference

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Our friends at the Chinese Film Festival Studies Research Network website  announce that April 1, 2014, the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese Film Festival Studies Network will host a one-day conference on Chinese film festivals. This is open to non-network members, and we invite proposals for papers to be presented. Details can be found on the News section of the website.

Additionally the website has two new festival reports from members of the Chinese Film Festival Studies network:

Dina Iordanova (St Andrews) reviews the Festival du Cinema Chinois in Paris, which took place in November 2013.

Ma Ran (Nagoya) reports from the 4th Chinese Independent Film Festival in Tokyo, which took place in December 2013. Excerpt:

The festival itself is motivated by the desire to establish Sino-Japan connections at a grassroots level, where communication is greatly valued and prioritized. Hence throughout the years, CIFFT has alternated routine Q&A sessions with Chinese independent cinema-themed discussion roundtables or events of similar nature in its programme (sometimes collaborating with universities), where Japanese film professionals (independent filmmakers, translators, scholars and festival programmers) and Chinese filmmakers can honestly dialogue and exchange ideas with each other.

Visit the Chinese Film Festival Studies Research Network.


LA Times on the hardships of Chinese independent film festivals

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Following the recent difficulties faced by the Beijing Independent Film Festival, Gabrielle Jaffe of the Los Angeles Times summarizes the BIFF’s latest run-in with local officials, while linking it to the setbacks of other Chinese independent film festivals:

Taking place in the national capital, in the shadow of central government offices, BIFF has been subject to more intense scrutiny than other independent cinema gatherings in China. But it is hardly the only such event that has had to cancel or move semi-underground. Independent festivals in Chongqing, Nanjing and Yunnan have all faced full or partial closures in the last year.

dGenerate’s Karin Chien is interviewed specifically regarding the troubles of the Chinese Independent Film Festival, which normally runs every fall:

Taking place in the national capital, in the shadow of central government offices, BIFF has been subject to more intense scrutiny than other independent cinema gatherings in China. But it is hardly the only such event that has had to cancel or move semi-underground. Independent festivals in casino Chongqing, Nanjing and Yunnan have all faced full or partial closures in the last year.

“CIFF has cooperated with local authorities, left the most politically sensitive films off the official program and even shown dragon-seal movies,” or films with the official government stamp of approval, said Karin Chien, president of Chinese independent film distributor dGenerate Films. “In the past, these concessions have allowed CIFF to continue to exist. But in the recent climate, CIFF has had to concede substantial components, like public forums and screenings, of their festival too.”

Read the full report.

No Apologies: Ai Weiwei Makes Surprise Visit to BIFF Closing Night

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

By Lydia Wu

Beijing Independent Film Festival organizer Li Xianting introduces surprise guest Ai Weiwei at the 10th BIFF closing ceremonies.

Beijing Independent Film Festival organizer Li Xianting introduces surprise guest Ai Weiwei at the 10th BIFF closing ceremonies. (Photo: Chen Yanzi)

On August 31st in the secluded courtyard of the Li Xianting Film Fund in Beijing’s suburb of Songzhuang, the 10th Beijing Independent Film Festival closed on a high note, and with an unexpected guest. Like last year a BBQ closing party brought the Chinese independent filmmaking and contemporary art circles back together. Chatting, beer and roasted kebabs created an atmosphere of ease contrary to the stress of the opening. Into this scene walked icon of Chinese contemporary art Ai Weiwei, accompanied by BIFF organizer Li Xianting. Since his release from prison last year, Ai has been mostly restricted to his quarters in Caochangdi, an urban village and arts community on the northeastern suburbs of Beijing. His behavior has been closely monitored by local authorities, who forbade him to enter Songzhuang. Although the Ai Weiwei documentary biography Never Sorry was selected by the 9th BIFF last year, he was unable to show up. There was no expectation that Ai would visit, and it immediately caused a stir among the attendees.


Surviving in the Shadows: the Beijing Indie Festival Shutdown in Context

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

In the website The China Story, film scholar Ying Qian offers an account of this year’s Beijing Independent Film Festival, placing it within a larger context of the emergence of the Chinese independent filmmaking scene in the Beijing artist district of Songzhuang. An excerpt:

I first visited Song Zhuang in 2009, when I was pursuing my work on independent Chinese documentary films. At the time, I noted the advantageous location of Song Zhuang. Traditionally, provincial border areas served as a refuge for people who wished to avoid the authorities. The situation of Song Zhuang on the periphery of Hebei province and the municipality of Beijing meant that at first neither Beijing nor Hebei had much interest in regulating the area.


19 Chinese language films at the Vancouver International Film Festival

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF), which runs from September 27-October 12, 2012, features 19 Chinese language titles hailing from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia. VIFF has long been one of the premier annual North American showcases for Chinese and Asian cinema. Here are links to the program descriptions for all of the Chinese-language selections, written by VIFF programmer Shelly Kraicer.

Documentaries from China:

Three Sisters dir: Wang Bing
When the Bough Breaks dir: Ji Dan
People’s Park dirs: J.P. Sniadecki & Libbie Cohn


Videos and Award Winners of Beijing Independent Film Festival

Friday, August 31st, 2012

By Kevin B. Lee

Here are two videos I produced while attending the 9th Beijing Independent Film Festival in August. The first, produced for Fandor, captures a first-hand instance of the kind of official monitoring and pressure experienced by the festival organizers and participants. It also makes reference to the recent problems faced by independent filmmakers Ying Liang and Hu Jie, both of whose films are distributed by dGenerate.

The second video, produced for the British Film Institute Sight & Sound magazine, goes further into the details of the festival’s cancellations, with exclusive video footage of the events, as well as four standout films from the festival lineup.

A second video and full list of the award winners can be found after the break.


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.”


Ji Dan Awarded Top Prize at Millenium International Documentary Film Festival

Monday, April 30th, 2012

"When The Bough Breaks" (dir. Ji Dan)

Ji Dan, whose film When The Bough Breaks unfolds the story of a family enmeshed in a struggle of harrowing personal and financial stakes, was awarded the top prize at the 2012 Millenium International Documentary Film Festival in Brussels. Lauded for is technical and artistic merits, as well as close examination of some of China’s most wide-reaching social issues, the film was awarded the Objectif d’or earlier this month.


Pema Tseden at SFIFF

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

The San Francisco International Film Festival will screen Pema Tseden‘s Old Dog this Friday, with a special appearance by the filmmaker.

Pema Tseden