Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

Navigating “The Future of Independent Documentary in China” in 2019

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

by Maya E. Rudolph 

“The Future of Independent Documentary in China” was the focus of a recent panel at the University of Southern California, where as part of the Visible Evidence documentary conference, Luke Robinson of the University of Sussex led a discussion amongst Chinese cinema scholars and filmmakers including independent filmmaker Zhu Rikun, Jenny Chio of USC, Michael Berry of UCLA, and Sabrina Qiong Yu of the University of Newcastle.

These scholars and filmmakers, all based outside of China, positioned the panel as an opportunity to look back at the devastation of documentary communities in recent years, examine the current landscape for independent documentary, and engage in a community-oriented dialogue making sense of the questions that have always stalked China’s documentary makers – do the challenges facing Chinese documentary communities represent a death knell or the opportunity for a transformation? Where do we go from here?

The Present of Independent Documentary in China

In his self-introduction during the “The Future of Independent Documentary in China” panel, Zhu Rikun – director of such films as Dust and The Dossier, and a leader of the Chinese independent film community now living in the United States – told a story about a retrospective screening of his work at another North American university. Zhu’s documentary work, which is largely concerned with images and language that expose the injustices in Chinese power structures, seemed to hit a member of the audience hard. “He was a man from Mainland China, but he was shouting in English,” Zhu recalled, “saying it was shameful to show this dark side of China.” The man continued to shout, rejecting Zhu’s attempts to speak up on behalf of his film. “This is a typical story,” Zhu told the audience at USC, “so if this kind of hostility is typical at a screening outside of China, you can just imagine how bad it is in China.”


dGenerate titles now streaming on OVID

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

The golden age of streaming indie films is here. With the launch of their new streaming platform OVID, Icarus Films has given independent film lovers access to a deep and eclectic catalogue of documentary and international cinema from a number of independent distributors including dGenerate Films. Streaming in the mix with legendary films from Chris Marker, Chantal Akerman, and Jean Rouch are more than a dozen dGenerate titles, many of which are available to stream in the US for the first time. Ranging from a catalogue of immersive works by prolific documentarian Wang Bing to Cai Chengjie’s hauntingly stylish debut feature The Widowed Witch, OVID is a welcome milestone in American audiences’ access to the best of Chinese independent cinema.

Wang Bing’s “Bitter Money”


“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.