A Statement of Support for the Beijing Independent Film Festival

Official poster for the 2014 Beijing Independent Film Festival

Official poster for the 2014 Beijing Independent Film Festival

Jonathan Miller, President of Icarus Films, distributor of the dGenerate Films collection, Karin Chien, dGenerate Films President and Founder, and Kevin B. Lee, dGenerate Films Vice President of Programming, join the international film community in signing a statement of support of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, which was shut down on Saturday August 24 by authorities in Beijing. Below is background information on the statement, followed by the statement and list of co-signers.

As distributors of Chinese independent films, dGenerate Films has benefitted greatly over the years from the Beijing Independent Film Festival as a renowned resource to discover exciting new works of Chinese cinema. Many titles in the dGenerate Films collection originally premiered at the Festival, attesting to the Festival’s vital function in presenting new works of Chinese cinema to the world. dGenerate’s mission to help audiences outside of China access and discover Chinese independent films is greatly inspired by the work of the Beijing Independent Film Festival and its sponsoring organization, the Li Xianting Film Fund.

We will provide updates and link to news reports as the situation unfolds on the dGenerate Films website.

For examples of the outstanding work associated with the Beijing Independent Film Festival and Chinese independent filmmaking community it serves, view the selection of documentaries and narrative films from the dGenerate collection.

Background to the Statement: 

On Saturday, August 23, the day it was to open, the 11th annual Beijing Independent Film Festival was shut down by the Chinese authorities. BIFF, supported and hosted for many years by the Li Xianting Film Fund, has been one of the most important venues within China for the exhibition of new, unauthorized, independent Chinese film, films that the censors won’t allow to be openly screened for Chinese audiences. The festival takes place at the headquarters of the Li Xianting Film Fund in the artist village of Songzhuang, a distant suburb of Tongzhou District, Beijing. For the past three years, Chinese police and local authorities have harassed the festival. But they have not succeeded, until this year, in completely shutting it down.

Police, State Security personnel, and representatives of various levels of government contacted and pressured the festival: on Saturday the electricity to the festival’s headquarters and sponsoring organization, the Li Xianting Film Fund, was cut, and anonymous “villagers” were sent to surround the headquarters and in some cases physically intimidate visitors and journalists. In what may be even more ominous news, noted critic and festival sponsor Li Xianting reported that the Film Fund’s complete archives and equipment were forcibly confiscated by the Chinese police. These archives comprise what is likely the most extensive collection within China of independent films and related research materials from the last ten years.

Statement in Support of the Beijing Independent Film Festival and the Li Xianting Film Fund:

As independent film festivals and supporters of independent cinema, we have learned with deep concern that the Chinese government and police authorities have prevented the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival, based in Songzhuang, Beijing, from opening last weekend, August 23rd, and detained its organizers Wang Hongwei, Fan Rong, and Li Xianting for several hours. We are also deeply concerned that BIFF’s sponsoring organization, the Li Xianting Film Fund, has been raided, and the entirety of its invaluable archives of independent Chinese cinema have reportedly been confiscated.

We call upon the relevant Chinese authorities to permit the Beijing Independent Film Festival to pursue its mission to nurture and exhibit a full range of alternative cinematic voices in China, to allow the festival to operate without interference, and to allow the Li Xianting Film Fund to continue its vital mission of archiving and supporting independent Chinese filmmakers.

 

Co-signed:

Berlinale Forum, Christoph Terhechte, Head
Curtas Vila do Conde International Film Festival, Nuno Rodrigues, Miguel Dias, Mário Micaelo , co-directors
dGenerate Films, Karin Chien, President
DocLisboa, Cíntia Gil and Augusto M. Seabra, co-directors
Festival International du Film de Belfort – EntreVues, Lili Hinstin, Artistic Director
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Dennis Lim, Director of Programming
Göteborg International Film Festival, Jonas Holmberg, Artistic Director,
Marit Kapla, Head of Programme
Hong Kong Independent Film Festival, Vincent Chui, Artistic Director
Images Cinema, Doug Jones, Executive DIrector
International Film Festival Rotterdam, Rutger Wolfson, Festival Director
Lima Independiente Festival Internacional de Cine, Alonso Izaguirre, Director
New York Film Festival, Kent Jones, Director
Sydney Film Festival, Nashen Moodley, Festival Director
Taiwan International Documentary Festival, Wood Lin, Program Director
The Association of Documentary Filmakers of Chile, Amalric de Pontcharra
Torino Film Festival, Emanuela Martini, Director
Tromsø International Film Festival, Martha Otte, Festival Director
Tokyo Filmex, Shozo Ichiyama, Program Director
True/False Film Fest, Paul Sturtz and David Wilson, co-directors
Visions du Réel, Luciano Barisone, Director