Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

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.

(more…)

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.”

(more…)

“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.

(more…)

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 mail@icarusfilms.com.

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

EggandStone

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.

foolishbird

 

 

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

China Onscreen Biennale Brings a Diverse Program of Chinese Media Arts to Los Angeles, New York, and DC

Monday, October 31st, 2016

by Maya Rudolph

Screen Shot 2016-10-30 at 4.47.50 PMDuring the fall of 2016, the “best of” Chinese cinema and media art is coming to Los Angeles, New York, and Washington DC with the China Onscreen Biennale. Now in its third iteration, the COB boasts an energetically interdisciplinary program of new Chinese cinema, restored classics, and a broad range of off-screen events. Without a jury or competition element, the COB presents a creative, independently-curated series that includes premieres of new works by Pema Tseden, Ying Liang, Jia Zhangke, and Zhao Liang; a series of site-specific “sound mandalas”; an artist exchange project rooted in Dunhuang, one of the Silk Road’s most historically significant areas; group meditations; and discussions with filmmakers and scholars designed to encourage open conversation between American and Chinese film communities.

From Gu Changwei's N39º54? 12.56? E116º23? 14.20?

From Gu Changwei’s N39º54? 12.56? E116º23? 14.20?

The COB program is selected by chief curator Cheng-Sim Lim and a committee representing the COB’s Presenting Partners, which also host many of the screenings and include UCLA, The Freer and Sackler Galleries, the Asia Society, and more. Lim, an independent curator, became chief curator of the COB after being approached by Susan Pertel Jain, Executive Director of the UCLA Confucius Institute, with an idea to create a film series with a fresh take on Chinese media and performance. “It was always important that the series be independently curated,” Lim said, “We really feel we have the opportunity to do things differently with this project.” The COB’s Chinese title is a reminder of this commitment to keeping the program active and open; a poetic license that activates the Chinese noun “screen” into a verb. In designing the COB, Lim also considered the cities in the US with nuanced audiences and varying relationships to China, “At first we thought about audiences in LA and DC. LA is the film capital and DC is the political capital, so these are important cities to be in dialogue with China and Chinese films.” Three editions in, the COB has added New York to the lineup, and cultivated a city-specific program that presents work from China and China itself “not as an object,” said Lim, “but as part of a specific exchange, a conversation.”

From Jia Zhangke's "The Hedonists"

From Jia Zhangke’s “The Hedonists”

While the COB’s 2016 film program presents diverse approaches to story, a reach for identity—shaped by geography, family, or a shifting economy—is a key element of many films and reflects what Lim called “a plurality of voices coming from China.” Zhao Liang’s stunning documentary Behemoth crawls deep into the belly of the beast fueling development in Inner Mongolia, while Wang Bing’s Ta’ang, shows life in a refugee camp on the Sino-Myanmar border. In his new short film The Hedonists, Jia Zhangke attempts levity and drone photography in the face of hard times for coal miners in Shanxi Province; and knotty questions of Tibetan identity and family shape Sonthan Gyal’s River and Liu Jie’s De Lan. At the COB’s opening night at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, a series of video works by Gu Changwei was enriched by a conversation with the artist and the West Coast premiere of Pema Tsenden’s Tharlo, a tragicomic story of ID cards, karaoke, and loss in remote Qinghai Province.

The COB’s thoughtful promotion of diversity in art and filmmaking from today’s China creates engaging and often mesmerizing access points for American audiences to connect to China. “From the very beginning, we thought, let’s put this work up [on the screen] without a specific frame on it,” said Lim, “Let’s approach this work as film lovers, with an open mind, and see what happens.”

The COB will run until November 14 in Los Angeles, November 3rd to December 1st in New York, and November 12 to 27th in Washington DC. More info is available on their website at www.chinaonscreen.org

dGenerate Titles Reviewed by VCinema

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

Three dGenerate titles were recently reviewed by VCinema, a podcast and blog devoted to Asian film, media, and culture.

Pema Tseden's Tharlo

Pema Tseden’s ‘Tharlo’

Writing for VCinema, Rowena Santos Aquino reviewed Pema Tseden’s Tharlo, the story of a Tibetan shepherd whose isolated routine and sense of identity is irrevocably displaced when he travels to the city in search of an ID card and stumbles into contradictions of “the opposing existential temporalities of bureaucracy/imposed history…and of land/localness…and how this opposition impinges on identity.” Addressing Tseden’s heartbreaking story of misplaced affections and broken assumptions, Aquino writes “The staggering irony about Tharlo’s journey to obtain his I.D. card, a document whose purpose is to disclose and/or confirm one’s identity in image and words, is that in the course of doing so, he loses the identity that he has …this irony is the power of Tseden’s film.”

Wang Bing's 'Three Sisters'

Wang Bing’s ‘Three Sisters’

Aquino’s review of Wang Bing’s documentary Three Sisters offers reflections not only into Wang’s film on “shifting…compositions of family,” but also into the “mosaic” that makes up Wang’s eclectic canon of work. In describing the story of three young sisters who shuffle them between family members’ homes amid stark economic hardship, Aquino praises Wang’s filmic rhythm as “improvisatory and loose” and comments that the low camera angles Wang employs to create spatial congruency with his young subjects serves as “not just a technical decision but also like a tacit gesture of solidarity, or at the very least empathy, in the midst of the sisters’ uncertain everyday and destitute environment.”

John Berra reviewed Yang Mingming’s Female Directors, a mockumentary investigation into the close, albeit fractious, relationship between two young film school grads, their “taboo breaking” antics, and the omnipresent camera they wield like a weapon. Addressing topics that range from the oft-mentioned “Mr. Short” or “Short Stuff”—a lover and benefactor on whom both the women rely—to the true nature of honesty and “relative honesty,” “Female Directors is a candid meta-commentary that deconstructs not only its titular pair’s varied, at times contradictory responses to male-dominated society but the methods used to examine such conditions in the digital age.