Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

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.

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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

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Chinese Reality #14: Railroad of Hope

Tuesday, May 14th, 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:

Railroad of Hope (dir. Ning Ying)

Railroad of Hope (dir. Ning Ying)

Xi wang zhi lu (Railroad of Hope)

2002. China. Directed by Ning Ying.

MoMA program description:

Years before the hit 2009 documentary Last Train Home depicted the plight of China’s migrant population, Ning Ying joined a trainload of agricultural workers on a grueling three-day journey to China’s northwest frontier in search of better jobs. In contrast to Last Train Home’s self-effacing style, Ning foregrounds her own presence through her exchanges with fellow passengers, as they respond to her disarmingly direct questions about their lives, hopes, and dreams with heartbreaking candor. A fascinating study of how the documentary camera serves as both objective observer of and subjective confidant for its subjects.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

A documentary in which, probably for the first time ever, we can listen to Chinese peasants from poor interior regions speaking openly and sincerely about their lives.

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Chinese Reality #13: Old Dog

Monday, May 13th, 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:

old-dog

Old Dog (dir. Pema Tseden)

2011. China. Directed by Pema Tseden. With Yanbum Gyal, Droluma Kyab, Lochey.

MoMA program description:

A young Tibetan decides to sell his family’s nomad mastiff, an exotic dog that fetches a fortune from wealthy Chinese. His aging father opposes him, leading to a series of tragicomic events that threaten to tear the family apart. Pema Tseden is the leading filmmaker of a newly emerging Tibetan cinema, and the first director in China to film his movies entirely in the Tibetan language. His third feature,Old Dog employs an observational documentary approach that soberly depicts the erosion of Tibetan culture under the pressures of contemporary society.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

And so the Tibetan new-wave cometh. Though merely a tiny ripple for now (consisting of about two filmmakers), the homelanders are showing a different side of their environment, one overlooked by features such as “Seven Years in Tibet” or the blockbusters currently burning the region’s box office. (more…)

Chinese Reality #12: There’s a Strong Wind in Beijing

Sunday, May 12th, 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.

bjwind-clpToday’s film:

Beijing de feng hen da (There’s a Strong Wind in Beijing)

1999. China. Directed by Ju Anqi.

MoMA program description:

A gonzo camera crew roams the streets of China’s capital, asking random passersby, “Is the wind strong in Beijing?” This ambiguous question provokes a startling variety of responses that expose social and cultural anxieties within contemporary China. The film implicitly poses a larger question about the role of intrusiveness and spontaneity in both documentary filmmaking and everyday social interactions.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

The film’s premise is simple: the crew goes around Beijing randomly asking the question, “Do you think the wind in Beijing is strong?” The ensuing interaction is best understood at the performative rather than semantic level – not in relation to the inane question about weather, but rather as prompting a social interaction. One may observe how – and not only with what words – various people respond to the unexpected question. People on the street react with varying degrees of media savvy – at times baffled by the non-sequitur, on other occasions trying to come up with a narrative to accommodate the question, for example, “It used to be strong before. The protective forest around Beijing works.” The haphazard encounters yield a surprising amount of information about Beijing’s streets and present a slice of life. (more…)

Chinese Reality #11: Out of Phoenix Bridge

Saturday, May 11th, 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.

Out of Phoenix Bridge (dir. Li Hong)

Out of Phoenix Bridge (dir. Li Hong)

Today’s film:

Hui dao feng huang qiao (Out of Phoenix Bridge)

1997. China. Directed by Li Hong.

MoMA program description:

For this groundbreaking work, which revealed the conditions of migrant laborers in China, Li Hong spent two years following the lives of four young women from the countryside who share a single-room Beijing hovel while searching for work. Li’s empathetic approach achieves both intimacy and a sense of solidarity with her subjects, while depicting the transformation of women’s roles within China’s massive migrant worker population.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings: 

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