Contemporary Chinese Cinema at Philadelphia’s International House

Street Life (dir. Zhao Dayong)

In the post-1990 era, Chinese cinema has seen a return of the amateur filmmaker. Restrictions after the Tiananmen square demonstrations have produced an edgy underground film movement loosely referred to as the Sixth Generation. Lacking in state funding and backing, these films were shot often quickly and inexpensively, using materials like 16mm film and or digital video with mostly non-professional actors and actresses. Set broadly across genres, these offerings are representative of both urban and rural life, vividly depicting the diversity of perspectives that comprise contemporary Chinese society. These selected films deal with an array of political, social, economic, and historical issues that are extremely important in China today.

The Ibrahim Theater, International House Philadelphia
3701 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104
Tel: 215-387-5125

FREE for IHP Members
$7 Students + Seniors
$9 General Admission

Thursday, Feb 23
07:00 PM
Street Life
(Nanjing Lu)
dir. Zhao Dayong, China, 2006, video, 98 mins, color, Mandarin w/ English subtitles
Street Life explores the hidden lives of homeless migrants who survive in the shadows of one of Shanghai’s most historic and affluent streets. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Chinese migrants are drawn to the allure of Shanghai, one of the world’s most vibrant cities, with hopes of earning a decent living. Some end up in the dark alleys of Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s largest shopping street, where they learn to hustle and scrape together any kind of living they can.

Friday, Feb 24
07:00 PM
Ghost Town
(Fei Cheng)
dir. Zhao Dayong, China, 2008, video, 169 mins, Mandarin, Nu and Lisu w/ English subtitles
A remote village in southwest China is haunted by traces of its cultural past while its residents piece together their existence. Zhiziluo is a town barely clinging to life. Tucked away in a rugged corner of Yunnan Province, Lisu and Nu minority villagers squat in the abandoned halls of this remote former Community county seat. Divided into three parts, this epic documentary takes an intimate look at its varied cast of characters, bringing audiences face to face with people left behind by China’s new economy.
Saturday, Feb 25
01:00 PM
Digital Underground in the People’s Republic
dir. Rachel Tejada, US, 2008, video, 18 mins, color, English and Mandarin w/ English subtitles
Six documentary shorts chronicle the changing state of China’s independent, and underground, film scene.
San Yuan Li
dir. Ou Ning and Cao Fei, China, 2003, video, 45 mins, color
Armed with video cameras, twelve artists present a highly stylized portrait of San Yuan Li, a traditional village besieged by China’s urban sprawl. China’s rapid modernization literally traps the town within the surrounding skyscrapers of Guangzhou, a city of 12 million people. The villagers move to a different rhythm, thriving on subsistence farming and traditional crafts. They resourcefully reinvent their traditional lifestyle by tending rice paddies on empty city lots and raising chickens on makeshift rooftop coops. Directed by acclaimed visual artists Ou Ning and Cao Fei and commissioned by the Venice Biennale, San Yuan Li explores the modern paradox of China’s economic growth and social marginalization.
Saturday, Feb 25
02:30 PM
Tape (Jiao Dai)
dir. Li Ning. China, 2010, video, 168 mins, Mandarin w/English subtitles

Performance artist Li Ning turns his life into art in this epic work of experimental documentary. For five grueling years, Li Ning documented his struggle to achieve success as an avant-garde artist while contending with the pressures of modern life in China. He is caught between two families: his wife, son and mother, whom he can barely support; and his enthusiastic but disorganized guerilla dance troupe. Li’s chaotic life becomes inseparable from the act of taping it, as if his experiences can only make sense on screen.

“A riveting portrait of an artist’s attempts at expression and conflicts with societal norms.” – Museum of Modern Art

IHP’s Pearls of the East series is supported in part through the generous contributions of the following companies and organizations: