MoMA Documentary Fortnight Opens This Week, Featuring Four New Titles from dGenerate

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

Karamay (dir. Xu Xin)

The 10th Annual Documentary Fortnight Festival of the Museum of Modern Art in New York runs from Wednesday February 16 to 28, 2011, showcasing 20 new outstanding international non-fiction films and videos. Four contemporary Chinese documentaries distributed by dGenerate Films will screen at the festival: Xu Xin’s Karamay (2010), Huang Weikai’s Disorder (2009), Xu Tong’s Fortune Teller (2010), and Li Ning’s Tape (2010). In addition, I Wish I Knew (2010), the latest film by Jia Zhangke (whose featurette Dong is distributed by dGenerate), will also screen.

Information about the five films after the break. Tickets can be purchased at the MoMA box office as early as the day before screening.

Fortune Teller. 2010. China. Directed by Xu Tong. The film’s narrative is divided into sections with paired chapter headings, in the style of popular fiction during the Qing Dynasty. Li Baicheng is a charismatic traditional Chinese fortune-teller who lives in a village near Beijing with his deaf and mute wife Pearl, who he rescued from an abusive family. He cares for her while also telling the fortunes of his clients, most of whom are prostitutes. As the police crack down on both fortune-tellers and prostitutes, Li Baicheng and Pearl are forced to move to his hometown, where he is haunted by his family‘s past and China’s history. In Chinese; English subtitles. 157 min.
Friday, February 18, 4 p.m.
Monday, February 21, 7:00. T2

Karamay. 2010. China. Xu Xin. In December 1994 a fire broke out in the Karamay Friendship Theater in Urumqi, killing 323 people, 288 of whom were school children performing for a special event. Government officials were ushered out, while the children were locked inside. Interviewing over 60 people related to the victims and showing video footage shot at the time of the disaster, the film slowly unravels the details of the incident, and provides a platform for the families to speak and be heard. Denied an official public apology, many of the victim‘s family members have suffered their own physical and emotional trauma. In Chinese; English subtitles. 356 min.; 15 min. intermission. [Also an International Film Selection]
New York premiere.
Introduction and discussion with Xu Xin.
Saturday, Feb 19, 1:30. T2

Disorder. 2009. China. Directed by Huang Weikai. This portrait of Guangzhou is masterfully compiled from 1,000 hours of amateur footage shot by various cameramen. Huang interweaves scenes of traffic jams, accidents, floods, police violence, protestors, and lost, wandering souls into an epic look at urban life in China, a riveting black-and-white collage of apocalyptic imagery that’s both unsettling and surreal. In Chinese; English subtitles. 58 min.
Introduction and discussion with Huang.
Friday, February 18, 7:15
Sunday, February 20, 2:00. T2

Tape. 2010. China. Directed by Li Ning. Avant-garde dancer Li Ning documents five years of his struggle to balance life as a choreographer with a dance troupe of committed college students, and his responsibilities as a son, husband, and father. Li Ning‘s life becomes intertwined with the film and with his own obsessions; his life before the camera is driven and chaotic, a public platform and a confessional. Loosely chronological and rife with symbolism, the film is a riveting portrait of an artist‘s attempts at expression and conflicts with societal norms. In Chinese; English subtitles. 168 min.
Sunday, February 20, 5:00
Wednesday, February 23, 4:00. T2

I Wish I Knew. 2010. China. Directed by Jia Zhangke. 18 people from Shanghai, Taipei, and Hong Kong recall their lives in Shanghai from the 1930s to 2010. After the Chinese Communists‘ victory in 1949, thousands of Shanghainese left for Hong Kong and Taiwan. Leaving meant being separated form home for 30 years, remaining meant suffering through the Cultural Revolution and other Chinese political upheavals. In Chinese; English subtitles. 118 min.
Thursday, February 24, 7:00. T2

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