Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

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…)

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.

(more…)

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: 

(more…)

Chinese Reality #10: i.Mirror by China Tracy (aka: Cao Fei) Second Life Documentary Film

Friday, May 10th, 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:

i.Mirror by China Tracy (dir. Cao Fei)

i.Mirror by China Tracy (dir. Cao Fei)

i.Mirror by China Tracy (aka: Cao Fei) Second Life Documentary Film 

2007. China. Directed by Cao Fei.

MoMA program description:

Artist and documentarian Cao Fei recorded her “experiences” within the online social platform Second Life. The result is a wistful, surreal vision of an alternative reality sprung from the pop culture fantasies and hyper-consumerism of contemporary urban China, while also trying to transcend its real-life limitations. It can be seen as an answer to the challenge posed by River Elegy: how to envision a new Chinese destiny founded on principles of individuality, creativity, discovery, and freedom. The film also reflects the contemporary condition of the virtual supplanting our experience of the real.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

The video is described by the artist as a “virtual documentary,” where we follow the adventures of China Tracy dating a young Chinese hipster, traveling to the beach, or visiting a museum in a disclocated environment. China Tracy’s virtual experiences often express melancholy, as seen in the message that scrolls down the screen: “To go virtual is the only way to forget the real darkness.”

New Museum, Rethinking Contemporary Art and Multicultural Education. Taylor & Francis. June 23 2011.

(more…)

Chinese Reality #9: No 16. Barkhor South Street

Thursday, May 9th, 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.

No. 16 Barkhor South Street (1996, dir. Duan Jinchuan)

No. 16 Barkhor South Street (1996, dir. Duan Jinchuan)

Today’s film:

Bajiao nanjie shiliu hao (No. 16 Barkhor South Street)

1996. China. Directed by Duan Jinchuan.

MoMA program description:

This state-approved documentary depicts, with extraordinary vividness, the everyday workings of a government committee that serves a neighborhood in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital. The office implements official policy while managing religious and secular events. Following the documentary practices of Frederick Wiseman, the film captures the mechanisms of the institution through careful observation of interactions between bureaucrats and locals. There may be no other film that captures daily life in Tibet—or the relationships between Chinese social services and the citizenry—in such penetrating detail.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings: 

Duan Jinchuan takes a close look at the daily life of one of these “neighbourhood committees” (ju wei hui) that exist throughout China. As the committee is in Lhasa, however, a muted tension exists between the Chinese cadres or residents and the Tibetan citizens, which permeates the piece at all levels, linguistically, humanly and administratively. (more…)

Chinese Reality #8: The Other Bank

Wednesday, May 8th, 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.

The Other Bank (dir. Jiang Yue)

The Other Bank (dir. Jiang Yue)

Today’s film:

Bi an (The Other Bank)

1994. China. Directed by Jiang Yue.

MoMA program description:

Young students from across the country are invited to Beijing to perform a play written by future Nobel Laureate Gao Xingjian. The film documents their feverishly intense rehearsals, the phenomenal public reception of their performances, and their desperate attempts to sustain their euphoria and pursue artistic careers in Beijing. With its heartbreaking climactic performance, this is a penetrating reflection on the transformative effects of art (both theater and documentary film), and a portrait of a generation’s quest to find fulfillment in 1990s China.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings: 

“Jiang Yue’s work The Other Bank is a watershed moment in the transformation of the positions, perpsectives and methods of the New Documentary Movement.”

(more…)

Fighting China’s Social Amnesia: A Viewing List

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

From an article by Chinese novelist Yan Lianke, published in the New York Times:

“Have today’s 20- and 30-year-olds become the amnesic generation? Who has made them forget? By what means were they made to forget? Are we members of the older generation who still remember the past responsible for the younger generation’s amnesia?”

“The amnesia I’m talking about is the act of deleting memories rather than merely a natural process of forgetting. Forgetting can result from the passage of time. The act of deleting memories, however, is about actively winnowing out people’s memories of the present and the past.”

(more…)