Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

“Reverberations and Amplifications” – An Essay by Karin Chien on sacrifice and freedom in independent cinema

Friday, December 7th, 2018

dGenerate Films founder and president Karin Chien recently published an essay entitled “Reverberations and Amplification” on the blog Flahery Stories: Stories from the Robert Flaherty Film SeminarThe blog, which is authored by Professor Patricia Zimmerman of Ithaca College, is focused on experiences of the filmmakers, scholars, and distributors who have participated in and contributed to The Flaherty Seminar.

The essay is printed below in its entirety. Many thanks to Professor Zimmerman for posting the essay!

“Reverberations and Amplifications”
by Karin Chien 

My Flaherty story really begins at the end of my first Flaherty seminar. But let’s start at the beginning.

In 2010, Dennis Lim curated a Flaherty Seminar on the theme of Work. He included films by Zhao Dayong, an indie filmmaker from mainland China. My company, dGenerate Films, distributes Dayong’s documentaries. We helped facilitate his visa to the US so he could attend.

Dayong returned filled with passion and joy about his Flaherty experience. His enthusiasm inspired us to think about mounting a Flaherty Seminar in China. Independent cinema was in a sense flourishing in mainland China at the time. Several independent Chinese film festivals were showcasing groundbreaking Chinese documentary work that would also premiere at Rotterdam, Venice, Cannes, Berlin. A Flaherty Seminar seemed an essential next step to further deepen documentary discourse in China.


China Onscreen Biennale brings new works from Jia Zhangke, Wang Bing, and more to LA and DC

Friday, October 19th, 2018

Chinese cinema fans rejoice – the China Onscreen Biennale is bringing the best of recent Chinese cinema back to Los Angeles and Washington DC!

Beginning October 19th, UCLA and affiliated venues around Los Angeles will host a series of premieres, special screenings, musical events, and a Jia Zhangke retrospective with screening dates through early December.

The screening series will open officially on October 19th at the Billy Wilder Theater, UCLA, Los Angeles with the West Coast premiere of Bi Gan‘s second feature – the follow-up to his celebrated debut Kaili BluesA Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Set again in Bi’s Guizhou hometown of Kaili, “the film’s title has nothing to do with Eugene O’Neill’s play, and everything to do with evoking the languorous slide of consciousness into twilight.”


dGenerate Films origin story profiled in Perfect Stranger magazine

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Ou Ning and Cao Fei’s “San Yuan Li”
Still courtesy of dGF and Icarus Films

How did dGenerate Films come to be?

dGenerate Films founder and president Karin Chien recently published a short history of dGenerate Films in the inaugural issue of Perfect Strangers magazine – a publication dedicated to cross-cultural reflections and exchanges that answer the question “how does the world meet itself?”

The article traces the dGenerate story from the serendipitous invitation to a screening of Ou Ning and Cao Fei’s “breathtaking” and brilliantly experimental documentary San Yuan Li that led to a journey to the largely-unsung corners of Chinese cinema culture, and an exploration of Chinese-American identity. From the early days of haphazard screenings and border crossings between China and the US laden with bags of screeners, to the challenges of finding a new audience for a remarkable generation of bold Chinese filmmakers, to dGenerate’s partnership with Icarus Films, Karin Chien’s story of dGenerate Films is a personal odyssey about the joys and struggles of developing a new relationship to China, and to cultivating a new, shared cinematic language.
The full article can be read here.

Thanks to Perfect Strangers magazine for helping tell the dGenerate Films story!

Review: “The Widowed Witch”

Friday, July 27th, 2018

THE WIDOWED WITCH 07_Courtesy of the dGenerate Collection at Icarus Films

by Maya Rudolph

The Widowed Witch (Xiao Gua Fu Cheng Xian Ji) is the debut film by Cai Chengjie and was awarded the Hivos Tiger Award at the 2018 International Film Festival Rotterdam. This review contains spoilers. 

The Widowed Witch is a film that establishes residence in its heroine’s body early on. Like the titular Widowed Witch, Er Hao, the film makes its way in the world with a distant, mordant eye on the symbols and illusions of witchcraft and Shamanism. Like Er Hao, the film is a sly manipulator up against the rules of village life. And like Er Hao, Cai Chengjie’s deadpan fairy tale takes on the contradictions of superstition and the furious chimera of women’s power to conjure an intriguing, misshapen magic.


Seeing “China Now”: An interview with Shelly Kraicer on Chinese female directors at the Udine Far East Film Festival

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

The Udine Far East Film Festival (FEFF) kicked off its twentieth edition this past April, bringing a diverse spectrum of Asian cinema and cultural events to the small city of Udine, Italy. With events ranging from screening of thrillers still sizzling at the Korean box office to Cosplay competitions, the festival was energized by the rallying call of its co-director Sabrina Baracetti: “Viva all cultura libera!” In the midst of a rich program of Asian genre cinema and hot-ticket blockbusters, the festival was proud to feature a wholly non-commercial sidebar: an independent selection of Chinese independent films curated by Shelly Kraicer and featuring work from some of Chinese independent film’s strongest female voices.

Zhang Mengqi's "Self-Portrait: Birth at 47KM"

Zhang Mengqi’s “Self-Portrait: Birth at 47KM”

Borne out of the 2015-16 Cinema on the Edge screening series co-organized by dGenerate Films, the series “China Now: Not For Commercial Use” sought a rare opportunity to showcase four often difficult, sometimes experimental, boldly independent Chinese films. As curator Shelly Kraicer wrote of the program “China Now: Not For Commercial Use”, “Chinese films of ‘no commercial value’, like the four we are featuring in this little sidebar, help complement a fuller, richer picture of what Chinese filmmakers are capable of. And they give us, in the West, a richer view of the fabulous energy, creativity, and innovation that’s still pulsing through the Chinese cinema world.”


“Notably progressive, deeply artistic and vigorously international” – A conversation with Robert Koehler on Locarno in Los Angeles and programming Chinese Cinema

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-06-08 at 7.51.44 AMLocarno in Los Angeles, launched in 2017, brings some of the best titles from the Locarno Film Festival to the Downtown Independent theater in Downtown LA. The 2018  edition of Locarno in LA featured two titles from mainland Chinese directors – iconoclast artist Xu Bing’s dizzying documentary debut Dragonfly Eyes, a love story in the age of big surveillance; and Wang Bing’s rigorously intimate Mrs. Fang, which was awarded the Golden Leopard at the 2017 Locarno Film Festival.  Following the second edition of this screening series, Maya Rudolph spoke to co-Artistic Director Robert Koehler about Locarno’s remarkable support of Chinese filmmakers, the shifting sands of Los Angeles cinema and exhibition culture, and the impact of Xu and Wang’s films in this year’s series.


Maya Rudolph/dGF: Hi there! This year marked the second edition of LA in Locarno. I’m curious to know how your approach to selecting films from Locarno to bring to LA was impacted by the first edition of the festival?

Robert Koehler:  We used the first year’s program as a basic model to follow for the second (and I suspect that’ll the case moving forward). The concept remained the same: A curated selection from the competitive sections of movies that hadn’t previously shown in Los Angeles. That curation would be the best of the work, in our judgment, from the field. Because Locarno’s programming is already notably progressive, deeply artistic and vigorously international, our selection would reflect that precise programmatic philosophy. Underlying all of that is a brazen embrace of radical cinema that offered up new possibilities for the art form, which is the foundational principle of Locarno and why we wanted to bring a portion of this particular festival to Los Angeles in the first place.


Obtaining dGenerate Films

Friday, May 5th, 2017

Welcome to dGenerate Films. If you are looking to watch or acquire any of our groundbreaking films featured in our catalog, please contact Icarus Films, who are representing our sales. They can be reached via phone at (718)488-8900 or email at

Visit the dGenerate Films collection on the Icarus Films website where you can browse by narratives or documentaries.

Huang Ji (Egg and Stone) debuts latest feature at Berlinale

Monday, March 6th, 2017


Huang Ji’s 2012 debut feature, Egg and Stone, shows the world of rural Chinese life through a perspective seldom seen, that of a young girl “left behind” in the reluctant care of her aunt and uncle in a small Hunan village. Huang’s 14-year-old heroine struggles with the sharp pain of her early sexual discoveries, compounded by the casual horror of abuse at the hands of her uncle.

An exhumation of her own past traumas and revelations, Egg and Stone was shot in Huang’s own hometown village with a cast of non-actors. Awarded the Tiger Award for Best Feature Film at the 2012 Rotterdam Film Festival, Egg and Stone (trailer can been seen here) has been lauded for its striking, clear-eyed photography and unflinching storytelling, laying bare the private tragedy of  a girl displaced from her own home and body. dGenerate Films and Icarus Films are proud to now include Egg and Stone in our catalogue of bold independent films from China.




In her follow up feature, The Foolish Bird (Ben Niao), which recently premiered at the 2017 Berlinale, Huang again explores  the phenomenon of young people in rural villages “left behind” by their parents seeking economic opportunity in big cities,  and the ruptures in their private lives and personal security that these adolescents must navigate on their own. As in Egg and Stone, a restlessness and grasping for love and stability drive Huang’s characters to move through an unstable world, creating new narratives of China’s rural woman and girls and painting The Foolish Bird as an emotional and thematic companion piece to Egg and Stone.

Speaking with V Cinema, Huang said of her new film, “The film is not a sequel to Egg and Stone per se, though [cinematographer and Huang’s husband Ryuji] Ozuka and I took to filming it again in my hometown, and used the same non-professional cast we worked with in the earlier film.”

Following the world premiere of The Foolish Bird in Berlin where the film received a Special Mention from the Jury, Huang has been profiled by V Cinema, and reviewed by the Goethe Institute and Sino Cinema.

Interview with Yang Mingming, director of Female Directors

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

By Josh Feola 

Yang Mingming, a self-described “hutong kid” born in 1988 and raised in central Beijing, fell into filmmaking in college. She majored in film and television directing at the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts, gravitating to the camera after pursuing an early passion for dance and theater. Female Directors, Yang’s first film after graduation, tells the story of two close friends and aspiring directors in Beijing — Ah Ming, portrayed by Yang, and Yueyue, portrayed by Yang’s close friend and former classmate, Guo Yue. The film plays with the format and content of the documentary so convincingly that I sincerely failed to register it as fiction the first time I saw it. Repeated viewings reveal Yang’s subtle play with the narrative structure and aesthetic form of the film, an alacrity that belies the director’s rigid technical planning and rehearsals.

After re-watching Female Directors, I asked Yang a few questions about some of the technical aspects of making the film, as well as the social and gender critiques that it aims to level against China’s swiftly modernizing society.

Yang (L) on the set of Female Directors

Yang (L) on the set of Female Directors

dGenerate Films: How did you get into filmmaking initially? Is it something you were interested in since you were young, or did it develop later?

Yang Mingming: 15 years ago I wanted to be a dancer, and after that I became interested in theater. But I didn’t pass the stage director’s exam, and due to a random combination of factors, I ended up studying film. Film isn’t like painting, or any kind of art that one person can do on their own. Because of this, early on, my interest in film manifested as an interest in the film’s audience. Even though now I’ve made Female Directors and a few other short films, when I’m shooting, I’m never completely happy. I think this is the normal state of affairs: when a director is shooting, she shouldn’t be happy, because there’s no time, and there’s the responsibilities of directing are so heavy. When I finish a movie, I totally lose interest in my film–I can only maintain interest in other people’s films. This is my main interest in filmmaking anyway—seeing other people’s films.

dGF: What about Guo Yue? Is she a university friend of yours in real life, or someone you met in the process of making this film?

YMM: Guo Ye and I went to the same school. She was two years below me, she’s my shimei (“little sister”). We’d collaborated before I started Female Directors when she acted in a film I made as my graduation project. Outside of working together, we’re also really good friends, and we really trust one another. We’re the kind of friends that can casually kiss, but we’re not lesbians.


Review: Yang Mingming’s Female Directors

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

By Josh Feola 

Courtesy of Icarus Films

Courtesy of Icarus Films

This review contains spoilers.

Yang Mingming’s 2012 debut Female Directors, a documentary-style narrative centered on the fractious but durable relationship between two young, underemployed film school graduates in Beijing, lends itself to the kind of one-dimensional feminist reading that reviewers have used to unlock the ostensible themes of Yang’s often tongue-in-cheek mockumentary. A number of reviewers have noted Yang’s use of a handheld digital camera — functionally the film’s third character, as it frequently changes hands between the film’s two protagonists — as a deliberate reversal of the male gaze. This consideration and the fact that there are no male characters in the film, aids the films’ explicit address questions of gender in contemporary Chinese society, both criticizing and reinforcing gender norms.

Rather than assess Female Directors based on the gender identities of its director and lead actresses — Yang performs as “Ah Ming” alongside her collaborator Guo Yue, who acts as “Yueyue” — a broader approach seeks to find the film’s meaning in its technical execution, a spare and brilliant adaptation of cinéma vérité style, exposing truth concealed by artifice, and offering an incisive look into the ritually self-obsessed nature of young Chinese creatives.


Infidelity and duplicity are recurring themes in Female Directors. The plot, insofar as there is one, hinges around the early revelation that Ah Ming and Yueyue, aspiring directors and best friends who’ve seemingly made a pact to film their every moment together with the ultimate goal of creating a documentary, discover that they’ve both been having an affair with the same married man. This wealthy adulterer, an invisible narrative prop from Guangdong, is never seen nor heard, and only ever referred to by the nickname “Short Stuff”. As the story progresses, Ah Ming and Yueyue reveal details about their relationship with Short Stuff, sometimes as barbed lies, others as revelations that evoke sympathy. Yueyue, we discover, has been sleeping with Short Stuff in exchange for the promise of receiving a Beijing hukou — a residence permit that would grant her considerable municipal benefits. Ah Ming, who coldly insinuates that Yueyue is no better than a prostitute, herself accepts a 16,000 RMB (roughly $2,500) “loan” from Short Stuff to make a film.