Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

Chinese Reality #24: Longing for the Rain

Friday, May 24th, 2013

To commemorate the film series Chinese Realities / Documentary Visions at the Museum of Modern Art(May 8-June 1), each day this month this blog will publish a brief primer on one of the 28 films selected in the series.

Today’s film:

Longing for the Rain (dir. Yang Lina)

Longing for the Rain (dir. Yang Lina)

Chunmeng (Longing for the Rain)

2013. China. Directed by Yang Lina. With Siyuan Zhao, Jia Fu, Pong paz roj Dej.

MoMA program description:

Over the last 15 years, Yang Lina made her name as one of China’s most notable women documentarians. Her first narrative feature, in which a Beijing housewife is seduced by a mysterious phantom lover who threatens to destroy her comfortable middle-class life, is a daring hybrid of genres, mixing an erotic ghost story with a deeply personal religious quest. Yang’s surreal depiction of female sexuality is made even stranger by moments of social documentary, yielding a highly original vision of subjective desires commingling with China’s contemporary reality.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

The film reveals an urban middle-class malaise which is rarely touched upon in Chinese cinema, be it mainstream or independent: the former mostly subject female characters as either lovelorn figures in romantic dramas or comedies, while the latter usually situate women as individuals caught in the maelstrom of social changes sweeping across a country rushing towards its embrace of a market economy. Female physical desire has largely been marginalized, Yang said.

Clarence Tsui, The Hollywood Reporter

(more…)

Chinese Reality #23: Tape

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

To commemorate the film series Chinese Realities / Documentary Visions at the Museum of Modern Art (May 8-June 1), each day this month this blog will publish a brief primer on one of the 28 films selected in the series.

Today’s film:

Tape (dir. Li Ning)

Tape (dir. Li Ning)

Jiao dai (Tape)

2010. China. Directed by Li Ning.

MoMA program description:

Avant-garde dancer Li Ning documents five years of his struggle to balance his career as a choreographer with a dance troupe of committed college students, and his responsibilities as a son, husband, and father. The artist’s life becomes intertwined with the film and with his own obsessions. Tape utilizes a variety of approaches, including first-person documentary, guerilla street video, and even homemade CGI, to produce an uncanny portrait of a private life enacted in public.

TAPE (Dir. Li Ning) trailer from The dGenerate Films Collection on Vimeo.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

We can perhaps say that, though the word is derogatory in meaning, “absurdity” is indicative of China’s final arrival at the dawn of post-modernity. Perhaps no film exemplified this theme more comprehensively than Tape, contemporary avant-garde dancer Li Ning’s five year chronicle of his personal life, alternating between his struggles with two types of “family”: his oft-neglected wife, son and mother; and his enthusiastic but unstable dance troupe comprised of college students. Made amidst a massive urban renovation project performed on his hometown of Jinan, the film is a postmodernist collage of cinéma vérité-style filming of Li’s interactions with his family, direct cinema-style filming of civic incidents, such as three men holding down a woman as her store is shut down, self-reflexive confessions, scripted voice-over narration, computerized special effects, experimental mise-en-scene, dream sequences, dialectical editing, and so on. The film plays like a fever dream of the artist’s life that gradually descends into nightmare. (more…)

Chinese Reality #22: When Night Falls

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

To commemorate the film series Chinese Realities / Documentary Visions at the Museum of Modern Art(May 8-June 1), each day this month this blog will publish a brief primer on one of the 28 films selected in the series.

Today’s film:

When Night Falls (dir. Ying Liang)

When Night Falls (dir. Ying Liang)

Wo hai you hua yao shuo (When Night Falls)

2012. China. Directed by Ying Liang.

MoMA program description:

Through his four narrative features and numerous shorts, Ying Liang utilizes low-budget digital video and observational documentary techniques to produce withering portraits of ordinary Chinese caught in webs of injustice. Inspired by the 2008 case of a young man’s murder of six Shanghai police officers, Ying’s newest feature focuses on the killer’s mother, whose own life is thrown into disarray by both the brutality of the criminal justice system and the netizens who oppose it. Uncommonly attentive to its mostly mute heroine, the film is a quiet plea for humanism amid forces that breed its opposite.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

The facts of the case are well known; it’s no spoiler to say that, despite Wang’s efforts, her son was executed, and the scene in which Wang learns this is a quiet masterpiece of imagination. Her gestures—drinking from a teapot, tearing leaves from a calendar—have both a spontaneous nobility and a futile comedy that are as grand and as poignant as a scene from Griffith. “When Night Falls” is a work of memory, reconstruction, and empathy that blends a coolly analytical style with a fierce yet quiet passion. Its precise and intimate scope, its canny sense of refracted representations, turns its lightly idealized modernism into a powerful version of political documentary. No wonder the Chinese government is unhappy with it.

Richard Brody, The New Yorker

Part of what makes When Night Falls excel as a work of cinema, as well as a political intervention, comes from Ying’s harnessing of isolation and pathos for the express purpose of displaying, through spatial articulation and physical bombardment, what it feels like when the entire apparatus of the Chinese government bears down on a lone individual. (more…)

Chinese Reality #21: Petition

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

To commemorate the film series Chinese Realities / Documentary Visions at the Museum of Modern Art(May 8-June 1), each day this month this blog will publish a brief primer on one of the 28 films selected in the series.

Today’s film:

Petition (dir. Zhao Liang)

Petition (dir. Zhao Liang)

Shang fang (Petition)

2009. China. Directed by Zhao Liang.

MoMA program description:

Filmed over the course of 12 years, Zhao Liang’s landmark documentary explores the world of petitioners who travel to Beijing to seek justice back in their hometowns. Zhao uses secret cameras to capture a bureaucracy that leaves people waiting for years for their cases to be heard. The film takes a startling self-reflexive turn when Zhao becomes entangled in a heartbreaking tragedy that unfolds between a petitioner and her daughter. This is a stirring achievement in both journalistic dedication and documentary ethics. The 5-hour long version of Petition captures in greater detail and complexity the stories of the many petitioners who seek justice. The two-hour version of Petition, edited for international festivals and television, offers a dramatically condensed version of Zhao’s five-hour investigation, revealing how the observational aesthetic is reconfigured for general audiences.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

“They are the dregs of society. Scorned and maligned, they live a dangerous existence in crude shantytowns as they pursue their quixotic quest.

(more…)

Chinese Reality #20: Oxhide II

Monday, May 20th, 2013

To commemorate the film series Chinese Realities / Documentary Visions at the Museum of Modern Art(May 8-June 1), each day this month this blog will publish a brief primer on one of the 28 films selected in the series.

Today’s film:

Oxhide II (dir. Liu Jiayin)

Oxhide II (dir. Liu Jiayin)

Niu pi er (Oxhide II)

2009. China. Directed by Liu Jiayin.

MoMA program description:

In 2005, a 25-year-old Beijing film student issued her startling debut film, Oxhide, a stylized feature film starring her parents as themselves, shot entirely in their tiny apartment. Her self-sufficient follow-up,Oxhide II, takes her highly formalized approach to everyday life even further, depicting her family’s preparation of a dumpling dinner in real time, set across nine distinctly positioned shots around a multi-purpose table. A work of great precision and intimacy, Liu’s film probes deep into deceptively banal surfaces to reveal the sublime mysteries of a Chinese family.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

I had to think, almost with pity, of all those US indie filmmakers who believe they have to cultivate CGI and slacker acting, to seduce investors and strain for outrageous sex and edgy violence. Liu made this no-budget, low-key masterpiece over years in a single room, and with her parents. That’s a new definition of cool.

David Bordwell

Video Essay on Oxhide II, dir. Liu Jiayin (script by David Bordwell) from Kevin B. Lee on Vimeo.

(more…)

Chinese Reality #19: Disorder

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

To commemorate the film series Chinese Realities / Documentary Visions at the Museum of Modern Art(May 8-June 1), each day this month this blog will publish a brief primer on one of the 28 films selected in the series.

Today’s film:

Disorder (dir. Huang Weikai)

Disorder (dir. Huang Weikai)

Xianshi shi guoqu de weilai (Disorder)

2009. China. Directed by Huang Weikai.

MoMA program description:

Assembling footage from a dozen amateur videographers, Huang Weikai presents a unique anti-city symphony of urban dysfunction that is alternately hilarious and horrifying. Pigs racing down a busy highway, government VIPs swimming in a polluted river, a hit-and-run victim being bribed to leave the scene, and an abandoned baby gawked at by passersby are all stranger-than-fiction visions that could never be aired on Chinese state television. These images represent both an alternative media culture of amateur videographers and viral video netizens, and the chaos seething through the cracks of a society in rapid transformation.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

Disorder was one of the most mesmerizing films I’ve seen in ages. (more…)

Chinese Reality #18: 24 City

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

To commemorate the film series Chinese Realities / Documentary Visions at The Museum of Modern Art (May 8-June 1), each day this month this blog will publish a brief primer on one of the 28 films selected in the series.

Today’s film:

24 City (dir. Jia Zhangke)

24 City (dir. Jia Zhangke)

Er shi si cheng si (24 City)

2008. China. Directed by Jia Zhangke. With Jianbin Chen, Joan Chen, Liping Lu.

MoMA program description:

Throughout his distinguished career, Jia Zhangke has blurred the boundary between documentary and fiction like no other Chinese director. At a state-owned factory being demolished to make way for a luxury apartment complex, Jia explores the history of the site from the 1950s to the present through nine documentary-style interviews. Five are with actual residents of the site; four are fictional stories delivered by professional actors. Through this hybrid storytelling mode, Jia exposes the fictional constructs behind documentary factuality, and reflects on the performative aspects of history and memory.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

Why did you decide to include fictional characters among your interviewees?
‘There wasn’t such an arrangement at the beginning, because I only planned to make a documentary to record the worker’s oral history. Nevertheless, every interviewee gave me the urge to imagine the rest of his story. There were words unspoken, and sentences half finished. I thought I could only fully comprehend these real people’s feelings through imagination. I’m not a historian writing history; I’m a film director reconstructing experiences incurred in history.’ (more…)

Chinese Reality #17: Yumen

Friday, May 17th, 2013

To commemorate the film series Chinese Realities / Documentary Visions at The Museum of Modern Art (May 8-June 1), each day this month this blog will publish a brief primer on one of the 28 films selected in the series.

Today’s film:

Yumen (dir. Huang Xiang, Xu Ruotao, J.P. Sniadecki)

Yumen (dir. Huang Xiang, Xu Ruotao, J.P. Sniadecki)

Yumen

2013. China/USA. Directed by Huang Xiang, Xu Ruotao, J. P. Sniadecki.

MoMA program description:

This highly experimental twist on the ethnographic documentary visits the town of Yumen, in China’s northwest Gansu province, a once-thriving, oil-rich community in the 1980s that has been left depleted and derelict. Strikingly shot on film, Yumen tells the story of this ghost town through a series of wandering characters and inventive vignettes in which even the spirit of Bruce Springsteen is summoned to comment on a world in ruins. A collaboration between Chinese and American filmmakers, Yumen pushes the boundaries of the documentary aesthetic in depicting China’s past and present.

YUMEN trailer

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

Fusing documentary and staged scenes in a manner reminiscent of Godard from the 1970s onward, Yumen brings dignity and beauty to a place that lies in near ruins, and was the finest piece of cinematic portraiture I witnessed at this year’s Berlinale. (more…)

Chinese Reality #16: San Yuan Li

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

To commemorate the film series Chinese Realities / Documentary Visions at The Museum of Modern Art(May 8-June 1), each day this month this blog will publish a brief primer on one of the 28 films selected in the series.

Today’s film:

San Yuan Li (dirs. Ou Ning, Cao Fei)

San Yuan Li (dirs. Ou Ning, Cao Fei)

San Yuan Li 

2003. China. Directed by Ou Ning, Cao Fei.

MoMA program description:

China’s rapid modernization literally engulfs the village of San Yuan Li within the surrounding skyscrapers of Guangzhou, a city of 12 million people. The villagers, who move to a different rhythm, thriving on subsistence farming and traditional crafts, resourcefully reinvent their traditional lifestyle by tending rice paddies in empty city lots and raising chickens in makeshift rooftop coops. Led by visual artists Ou Ning and Cao Fei, a dozen videographers, including Huang Weikai, who went on to direct Disorder, collaborated on this highly stylized village-in-a-city symphony, exploring the modern paradox of China’s economic growth and social marginalization.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

[Sanyuanli] differed markedly from what was then the established forms of independent Chinese documentary. (more…)

Chinese Reality #15: Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

To commemorate the film series Chinese Realities / Documentary Visions at The Museum of Modern Art(May 8-June 1), each day this month this blog will publish a brief primer on one of the 28 films selected in the series.

Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (dir. Wang Bing)

Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (dir. Wang Bing)

Today’s film:

Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks

2003. China. Directed by Wang Bing.

MoMA program description:

The most monumental achievement in the Chinese new documentary movement to date, Wang Bing’s three-part, nine-hour portrait of an industrial wasteland made the top 100 in the 2012 Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All Time poll. Once the heart of state-run heavy industry, Tiexi district, in the northeastern city of Shenyang, is now a scene of decay, as economic reforms, bankruptcies, relocation, and demolition have left many factories empty and entire communities jobless. Filmed over two years, the film is a testament to Chinese documentarians’ commitment to a deceptively simple film technique, one that patiently peels away everyday surfaces to reveal rich layers of history and culture.

Read Director’s Statement by Wang Bing (from the 2003 Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, where it won Grand Prize)

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

The film depicts a panoramic scene of the decline of China’s state-owned factories following the failures of its planned economy. Landscapes of desolate factories and portraits of people living in difficult predicament reflect a poetic sorrow.

Jia Zhangke, ChinaFile

(more…)