Profile on Current State of Chinese documentaries

Karamay (dir. Xu Xin)

Taiwan News has a highly informative article by Yali Chen comparing documentary production and distribution in Taiwan and China. The article reports on a couple of documentary exhibition and promotion events that take place in Taipei in the fall: the Golden Horse Awards (where the Taiwanese doc Hip Hop Storm took the best documentary prize) and the CNEX Chinese Doc Forum (CCDF) where NT $300,000 are awarded to Chinese documentary projects in development (this year’s winner is Shen Ko-shang for Double Happiness Limited: The Crazy Chinese Wedding Industry).

CNEX CEO Ben Tsiang explained the mission of the CCDF in helping Chinese documentary filmmakers develop their skills in accessing the funding resources and audiences of the global marketplace. “It’s hard for Chinese-language documentaries to penetrate the global market due to the language barrier and Chinese filmmakers’ unfamiliarity with the rules of an international pitching session.”

Chinese documentary filmmaker and distributor Tammy Cheung makes a direct comparison between Taiwanese and Chinese documentaries in terms of their shooting style, subject matter and regard for a mainstream audience:

“In terms of subjects, shooting styles and editing skills, Taiwan’s films seem similar because most filmmakers like touching, personal stories with a pinch of softness,” Hong Kong-based director Tammy Cheung said, “Taiwanese filmmakers care more about what their audiences like.”

“Chinese documentaries look very different because they have a touch of aggressiveness and center around serious social issues such as legal reforms, the gap between the city and countryside, plus human rights of Tibetans and migrant workers.”

Zhu Rikun, Curator of the Beijing Independent Documentary Festival, adds, “Chinese independent nonfiction filmmakers care more about political and social issues.” Exemplary mainland documentaries mentioned include Xu Xin’s Karamay, Du Haibin’s 1428 (available through dGenerate Films), and Petition by Zhao Liang (whose Crime and Punishment is distributed by dGenerate).

Read the full article.

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