Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

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.”

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Chinese Reality #7: The Story of Qiu Ju

Tuesday, May 7th, 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 Story of Qiu Ju (dir. Zhang Yimou)

The Story of Qiu Ju (dir. Zhang Yimou)

Today’s film:

Qiu Ju da guan si (The Story of Qiu Ju)

1992. China. Directed by Zhang Yimou. With Li Gong, Peiqi Liu, Liuchun Yang.

MoMA program description:

While many of Zhang Yimou’s lavish allegorical films were censored, this remarkable foray into realism was screened and celebrated in his homeland. With longtime muse Gong Li as a peasant woman seeking justice for her husband’s injury, Zhang used hidden cameras and long takes to capture a sense of everyday life in both the countryside and the city. The film suggests that the concern for realism among China’s independent documentaries and features could also be found in official state productions.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

 While some critics have suggested some aesthetic losses relative to Zhang’s more obviously formalized previous features, I think this is his most richly textured work to date. (more…)

Acclaimed Tibetan language film Old Dog Premiering at MoMA

Monday, May 6th, 2013
Old Dog (dir. Pema Tseden)

Old Dog (dir. Pema Tseden)

PEMA TSEDEN’S ACCLAIMED TIBETAN-LANGUAGE FEATURE

OLD DOG

NEW YORK PREMIERE THEATRICAL RUN
The Museum of Modern Art, May 15-20

After a successful festival run – including prizes at the Brooklyn Film Festival, Tokyo FILMeX, and Cinema Digital Seoul – Pema Tseden’s“spectacular” Tibetan feature OLD DOG (Lao Gou/Khyi Rgan) will make its New York theatrical premiere run at The Museum of Modern Art from May 15-20. (Leslie Felperin, Variety)

“A beautiful, highly effective and moving statement about a culture in danger of disappearing”OLD DOG tells the story of a family on the Himalayan plains discovers that their dog is worth a fortune, but selling it comes at a terrible price. (James Mudge, Beyond Hollywood)

OLD DOG (Dir. Pema Tseden) trailer from The dGenerate Films Collection on Vimeo.

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Chinese Reality #6: The Satiated Village

Monday, May 6th, 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:

Jiu zu fan bao de cun (The Satiated Village)

The Satiated Village (2011, dir. Zou Xueping)

The Satiated Village (2011, dir. Zou Xueping)

2011. China. Directed by Zou Xueping.

MoMA program description:

Wu Wenguang’s Folk Memory Documentary Project, which encourages amateur filmmakers to investigate the hidden histories of their home villages, gave rise to Zou Xueping’s first feature, The Starving Village, for which Zou interviewed residents of his hometown about their experiences during a famine that killed tens of millions. In this follow-up, Zou tries to screen the film in her village, only to meet resistance from family and neighbors fearful of official reprisal. Undeterred, Zou uses her camera to mediate her hometown’s ability to confront its tragic past, with near-miraculous results.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

By engaging several generations of villagers with the controversy of screening Hungry [aka Starving] Village abroad (which means the foreign world would come to know about the peasants’ sufferings and humiliations in the Great Famine), Zou perceptively parallels layered opinions and arguments between opposing sides. (more…)

Chinese Reality #5: China Villagers Documentary Project

Sunday, May 5th, 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:

China Villagers Documentary Project (various directors)

China Villagers Documentary Project (various directors)

Zhongguo cunmin yinxiang jihua (China Villagers Documentary Project aka China Village Self-Governance Film Project)

2005. China. Various directors.

MoMA program description:

Wu Wenguang and filmmaker Jian Yi trained 10 villagers from across China to make films documenting electoral processes in their home villages. Pursuing the ideal that anyone can become a documentary filmmaker, this project sparked a new model of Chinese participatory documentary, with community members depicting their own lives. The resulting works—surprisingly humorous, and filled with their own local flavor—vividly reveal the realities of village life and democracy in action.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

The villagers’ films are fascinating glimpses into the meeting place between newly learned technological intimacy and political curiosity born of a deep understanding of local issues. (more…)

Chinese Reality #4: Fuck Cinema

Saturday, May 4th, 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:

Fuck Cinema (dir. Wu Wenguang)

Fuck Cinema (dir. Wu Wenguang)

Cao ta ma de dianying (Fuck Cinema)

2005. China. Directed by Wu Wenguang.

MoMA program description:

This unflinching x-ray of show business, worthy of Billy Wilder, is an odyssey through the dark side of Chinese underground cinema. The film follows a young man from the countryside trying to break into the movies as an actor and screenwriter, a series of young women auditioning for the coveted role of a movie prostitute, and a pirate DVD seller hounded by the police. With this fresh crop of lost dreamers seeking success in the culture industry, Wu offers a pointedly cynical update to his Bumming in Beijing while exposing the exploitive undercurrent of Chinese independent filmmaking—including his own.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

A pioneer of Chinese independent documentary, Wu Wenguang follows an impoverished migrant worker who is desperately pitching his amateur screenplay in Beijing. Wu sometimes places himself in front of the camera and is relentless in depicting the film world as more deceiving than alluring. His critical self-reflexivity establishes the film as both documentation and performance, thereby encouraging the view to explore a new ethics of the self vis-à-vis the other.

– Zhang YingjinChinaFile

Wu’s documentary lens provides a cynical reflection on the dissonance between the fantasies and pursuit of pleasure that the Chinese mass media engenders in many of its consumers and the alarming lack of agency that governs many of those consumers’ sense of the everyday. But Wu is equally critical of those who have migrated to the city in hopes of breaking into the industry as he is of the producers of these cinematic confections. In the prostitute casting session, the male voice that orders aspiring actresses to remove their outer layer of clothing remains off-screen, but the camera echoes his lascivious gaze. The framing simultaneously mocks the duped auditioner and the film producer, leaving open for now the question of how Wu’s own posititionality as observer aligns on this axis of power. That question is clarified later when one of his subjects reads aloud for the camera his reflections on his relationship with Wu. “Some people asked: Wu Wenguang is making a documentary about you, you are working as an extra for him, how much does he pay you per day? I pondered this for a moment.”

– Jason Fox, “The Present Generation.” The Brooklyn Rail.

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New issue of Journal of Chinese Cinemas available

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

17508061The newest issue of the Journal of Chinese Cinemas, edited by Song Hwee Lim and Julian Ward, is now available online. The current issue bears a special focus on topics related to Chinese independent cinema, with essays on such topics as: independent documentaries dealing with the topic of migration; the beleaguered independent film festival Yunfest; and the documentary filmmaker Zhao Liang.

Entering its seventh volume, Journal of Chinese Cinemas is a major refereed academic publication devoted to the study of Chinese film, drawing on the recent world-wide growth of interest in Chinese cinemas. An incredibly diverse range of films has emerged from all parts of the Chinese-speaking world over the last few years, with an ever increasing number of border-crossing collaborative efforts prominent among them. These exciting developments provide abundant ground for academic research.

Contents:

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Chinese Reality #3: Mama

Friday, May 3rd, 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.

Mama (dir. Zhang Zhen)

Mama (dir. Zhang Yuan)

Today’s film:

Mama
1990. China. Directed by Zhang Yuan.With Qing Yan, Xiaodan Yang.

MoMA program description:

Often cited as China’s first independent feature film, this low-budget drama, filmed largely in the director’s Beijing apartment, depicts the life of a single mother (a topic considered taboo at the time) caring for her mentally challenged son. Shot with a documentary aesthetic that includes interviews with families of mentally challenged persons, the film helped kick-start the Sixth Generation of filmmakers (including Wang Xiaoshuai and Jia Zhangke) and their ethos of employing documentary realism to depict the true conditions of contemporary China.

Wikipedia

Excerpts from select reviews and writings: 

Zhang isn’t content with showing street-level realities for their own sake; he pushes his material towards expressionism, using the mother’s inevitable mood swings as keys to the tone and texture of the images, a strategy that brings him within breathing distance of film noir by the end. China’s ‘Sixth Generation’ film-makers couldn’t have got off to a stronger start.

– Tony Rayns, Time Out

Looking back, I can say that at that time I was in a fairly depressed state of mind. 1989 was the year I graduated from the Beijing Film Academy, and almost immediately after graduation I shot this film. I felt that my work and everyday life were all shrouded under a big oppressive cloud that just weighed me down.

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Two Breakout Chinese Indie Films at Hong Kong International Film Festival

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

By Francisco Lo

Forgetting to Know You

Forgetting to Know You (dir. Quan Ling)

Going into HKIFF, I expected to see great films by the trusted auteurs, and the likes of Hong Sang-soo (In Another Country, Nobody’s Daughter Haewon) and Olivier Assayas (Après Mai) did not disappoint me. But another crucial part of my festival experience was discovering the unknown pleasures that may not get any sort of wide distribution. Among the lesser-known names, two Chinese films stood out in this year’s festival.

Fresh from the Forum section in this year’s Berlinale, Forgetting to Know You is directed by writer-turned-filmmaker Quan Ling. With Jia Zhang-ke—the most celebrated Chinese filmmaker among critics in the West—on board as producer, the first-time director certainly gets more than a stamp of approval. The presence of Jia’s longtime cinematographer Yu Lik-wai ensures an expertly shot picture but the comparison between the two should end there.

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Chinese Reality #2: Bumming in Beijing

Thursday, May 2nd, 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:

Bumming in Beijing (1990, dir. Wu Wenguang)

Bumming in Beijing (1990, dir. Wu Wenguang)

Liu lang Beijing (Bumming in Beijing: The Last Dreamers)
1990. China. Directed by Wu Wenguang.

MoMA program description:

Shot before and after the Tiananmen Square incident, Wu Wenguang’s portrait of five artists eking out a life in the nation’s capital is considered the birth of the Chinese independent documentary movement. The film’s open, observational structure and handheld camera work are hallmarks of the movement today, as is its self-reflexive awareness of the documentarian’s role, with a sense of intimacy and solidarity between filmmaker and subject.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

“A new chapter of the history of representation was being written in front of my eyes.”

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