Archive for the ‘Film Festivals’ Category

“Old Dog” to Join Films from China and Hong Kong at San Francisco International Film Festival

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Pema Tseden‘s Old Dog, which made its North American premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival and US premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival, will open April 22nd as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival.

"Old Dog" (dir. Pema Tseden)


CinemaTalk: A Conversation with Filmmaker Ji Dan

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
By Maya Eva Gunst Rudolph

Ji Dan

Originally from Heilongjiang, Ji Dan is a documentary filmmaker who has worked extensively in both China and Japan. Her past works include Spirit Home (2006), Dream of the Empty City (2007), and Spiral Staircase of Harbin (2008), which was awarded prizes at both the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival and the China Documentary Film Festival.

Ji Dan’s most recent work, When The Bough Breaks, is a remarkably intimate account of a family of migrant trash scavengers living in Beijing and the bitter struggle of two young girls to send their little brother to school, against all odds and in the wake of their older sister’s disappearance. The day after When The Bough Breaks made its North America premiere at MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight, I spoke to Ji Dan in New York about the family depicted in When The Bough Breaks, her unique approach to filming and getting involved in the lives of her subjects, her mutual appreciation of theater and documentary, and what it’s like being one of Chinese documentary’s few female directors.


“When The Bough Breaks” to Screen at Documentary Fortnight

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

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

Ji Dan‘s When the Bough Breaks will screen on Monday, February 20 and Wednesday, February 22nd as part of the Documentary Fortnight at MoMa. The American premiere of the documentary will be followed by a discussion with director Ji Dan.


CinemaTalk: Interview with Alison Klayman, director of “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

By Maya Eva Gunst Rudolph

Alison Klayman (

Alison Klayman is a journalist who, while living in China from 2006-2010, produced radio and television for news sources such as NPR’s “All Things Considered,” AP Television, Voice of America, Current TV, and CBC. She is the director of the documentary film Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, which won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Defiance at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. I spoke with Alison at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah about the film’s trajectory, the role of social media in making bringing this story to life, and her working relationship with China’s most notorious artist and filmmaker. Thanks to Alison and her team for their cooperation.

dGenerate Films: Can you talk a little about the origins of your working relationship with Ai Weiwei and how the project got started?

Alison Klayman: I had been living in Beijing for about two years when my roommate, Stephanie Tung, who was working at Three Shadows [Photography Center, a gallery and cultural center in Caochangdi, Beijing] got me involved in an exhibition they were doing of Ai Weiwei’s photos from New York. The photos are kind of a”greatest hits” series of contemporary cultural figures in China and provided an interesting window into this cross-cultural understanding of New York that I was really drawn to. I was kind of underemployed at the time and Stephanie suggested I make a video to accompany the exhibition. Rong Rong [photographer and Three Shadows director] gave me the okay and I went from Three Shadows to Weiwei’s house with the camera already rolling. It was really natural and organic. I didn’t just show up at Weiwei’s door and say “I’m fascinated by you, I want to film you.” We finished the video and Weiwei liked. I think it showed who he really is – very charismatic and engaging, fun-loving, doesn’t take himself too seriously. And then projects just kept coming up, so I feel compelled to keep filming. That’s kind of the beauty of Beijing – it’s very open and you can easily fall into these kinds of projects unexpectedly.


Review: Pema Tseden’s Old Dog

Monday, January 30th, 2012

"Old Dog" (dir. Pema Tseden)

By Maya Eva Gunst Rudolph

At the Slamdance Film Festival, where Pema Tseden‘s elegiac 2010 feature Old Dog made its US premiere last week, filmmakers are asked to share their “war stories” – the trials and tribulations of producing Slamdance’s class of often low-budget, off-the-grid films. While battling budget woes and zany locations mishaps is common among Slamdance filmmakers, Old Dog arrived in Park City with a self-evident “war story,” a sense of the political and poetic enmeshed in each highly emblematic frame of this story of an aging Tibetan herder and his eponymous mastiff.


Update From Sundance/Slamdance

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

"Old Dog" (dir. Pema Tseden)

The Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals are starting to wind down, but not before a score of China-related films and discussions have made their mark on Park City.

While no films by mainland filmmakers were programmed at the festivals this year, both narrative and documentary projects focused on China have revealed diverse impressions of Chinese life, art, and even filmmaking practice. In Sundance’s US Documentary competition is Alison Klayman‘s Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry, a through investigation into the artistry, activism, and philosophy of China’s most notorious artist and documentary filmmaker. Representing a different facet of Chinese documentary subjects is China Heavyweight, Yung Chang‘s story of aspiring boxers in Sichuan Province. A co-production between China and Canada, China Heavyweight entered Sundance in the World Documentary competition.

Pema Tseden‘s Old Dog made its Slamdance premiere last night as part of a special screening series. The film, shot in Tibet with a largely Tibetan cast and crew, presents an allegorical narrative of a Tibetan farmer reluctant to relinquish his beloved mastiff to a Chinese trader. Also screening at Slamdance today were a series of independent shorts from Iranseven films smuggled out of a country with a system of controlling and censoring filmmakers closely reminiscent of that currently governing the work of Chinese filmmakers.

More coverage on many of these films and events, plus interviews with filmmakers, are forthcoming!

Pema Tseden’s “Old Dog” to Screen at Slamdance

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Pema Tseden’s Old Dog, heralded as one of foremost triumphs of “Tibet New Wave” will screen January 24th at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

"Old Dog" (dir. Pema Tseden)

“At the tail end of the twentieth century in Tibet, a son has sold his family mastiff to a dog dealer in town, but his father retrieves the mastiff and frees it in the mountains. But the freed mastiff only ends up in the hands of the dog dealer again, who plans to resell it. To get the mastiff back from the dealer, the son fights the dealer and ends up being arrested by the police. Rather than leave the mastif in the dealer’s hands, the father chooses a tragic end for the old mastiff who has kept him company for many years.”

CinemaTalk: A Conversation with Filmmaker Wu Wenguang on the Memory Project

Friday, December 16th, 2011

By Maya E. Rudolph

After his screening series premiering many works from the Getting the Past Out Loud: Memory Projects at New York University, I spoke with filmmaker and Memory Projects organizer Wu Wenguang about the project, a new generation of filmmakers, and his view on screening works in the US. The event was held at the NYU Center for Religion and Media and co-sponsored by the Department of Cinema Studies, with generous support from China House.

Special thanks to NYU Professors Angela Zito and Zhang Zhen for curating the program and arranging this interview with Wu Wenguang.

Wu Wenguang at NYU

dGF: When and how did the Memory Project begin?

Wu Wenguang: The project started last year. It was last summer that we had the opportunity to start this. It was during this time we first started going to villages to conduct interviews. It had to be summer, this was the ideal season for heading off to these villages. So, everyone headed off to their own villages, their hometowns, for these interviews. When they got back, everyone started to edit, give advice, collaborate. This is how we got started.

dGF: The majority of the people participating in this project as filmmakers are pretty young, born in the 80s or 90s. You’ve said that your generation’s view of cinema differs greatly from that of these young people. What do you feel you have to teach one another – what kind of exchange do you have?

WWG: These kids have a lot of confidence, real self-starters. I don’t know if I really can teach them much. We can simply work together. Sometimes, the people in these villages think I’ve taught them how to shoot and what to shoot. This isn’t the case; they’ve chosen how and what to shoot by themselves. What I have to teach them isn’t important. What is important is their own work and how they choose to conduct it.


CIFF Roundup: John Berra Reports on Nanjing Festival

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

CIFF Official Logo

Reporting for the Electric Sheep blog, John Berra delivers a comprehensive account of the sights and sounds of the 8th annual China Independent Film Festival. Commenting on festival highlights, Berra offers an opinion on Shu Haolun‘s No. 89 Shimin Road, a staple of the current festival circuit throughout Asia.

The turbulent political landscape of the late 1980s is filtered through a nostalgic lens in Shu Haolun’s No. 89 Shimen Road (2010), although reference to Tiananmen ensures that this engaging drama will not receive a mainland release. High school student Xiaoli lives with his strict but understanding grandfather in Shanghai following his mother’s relocation to the United States, and becomes romantically involved with two girls who represent opposing social ideologies; next-door neighbour Lanmi becomes an escort for easy money while classmate Lili is more politically motivated. Shu resorts to some coming-of-age clichés, but this is still an evocative snapshot of youthful uncertainty at a time of social instability.


Shelly on Film: Fall Festival Report, Part Two: Under Safe Cover, a Fierce Debate

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

By Shelly Kraicer

Shu Haolun's "No. 89 Shimen Road" won the top prize at CIFF, but wasn't shown on Awards Night.

The Nanjing-based China Independent Film Festival (28 October-1 November 2011), unlike the Beijing Independent Film Festival described previously, benefited from a substantial degree of official and semi-official “cover”. Unlike BIFF, there is a certain amount of practical compromise with official bodies and officially approved cinema: purity isn’t such an issue. Co-sponsors include the Nanjing University School of Journalism and Communication, The Communication University of China (Nanjing) and the RCM Museum of Modern Art. The second day of CIFF includes a forum attended by local propaganda department officials. A sidebar of the festival (nicknamed the “Longbiao Section” for the dragon-headed insignia that appears at the beginning of all officially approved film prints in China) included screenings in a luxurious commercial cinema of several films that that are strictly speaking non-independent (i.e. censor-approved) but are made in a spirit of independence. These films would not appear at BIFF, for example, but might show later in official venues like Beijing’s Broadway Cinematheque MOMA, where approved “arthouse cinema” (i.e. non-commercial) finds a refuge in Beijing.