San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Offers a “Fearless” Look at Chinese Independent Documentaries

Ghost Town (dir. Zhao Dayong)

From April 3rd to April 21, San Francisco’s YBCA will feature six of dGenerate’s films in a special series titled: Fearless. YBCA’s website offers the following description:

The most compelling, politically engaged documentary cinema in the world right now is coming from China. Totally under the radar, with low/no budgets and little/no hope of their work being shown in their own country, filmmakers are using inexpensive digital technology to tell stories that would never otherwise be told. This is not easy stuff – the films tend to be long, and often depict human rights abuses, stories of chaos and neglect, and of state-sanctioned deception. It is a deeply committed cinema, which expects no less from the viewer.

Tickets for the screening are $7 for general admission. Tickets are $5 for seniors, students, and teachers, and those with a valid public transportation pass or a public library card. Gallery admission is included in ticket price. Tickets can be purchased online here.

YBCA is located at 701 Mission Street in San Francisco, California. Detailed directions can be found on the YBCA website. Very special thanks to Joel Shepard, curator of the YBCA film and video program.

More details on each film in the series after the break.

KARAMAY
April 3, 2011
1 pm
Screening Room
by Xu Win

Known as the ’12/8/94 incident,’ a devastating fire broke out in the Karamay Friendship Theater in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, killing 323 people, 288 of whom were schoolchildren. After more than a decade of suppressed information, it is now known that the children perished because they were ordered to stay in their seats so that Communist party officials could leave first. Despite having escaped the fire unharmed, the government officials failed to call for help on time and unlock the alternative exits of the theater. This epic film offers an exhaustive study of not only the incident itself, but the profound grief of the parents and their furious, and dangerous, criticism of the government. ‘Any future book on documentary film history will have to mark a place of honor for Karamay… an astonishing achievement on every level.’ – Variety (2010, 371 min, digital, presented with short intermission)

TapeTAPE
April 7, 2011
7:30 pm
Screening Room
by Li Ning

For five grueling years, Li Ning documents 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. Tape shatters documentary conventions, utilizing a variety of approaches, including guerilla documentary, experimental street video, even CGI. Much like Jia Zhangke’s Platform, Tape captures a decade’s worth of artistic aspirations and failures, while breaking new ground in individual expression in China. (2010, 168 min, digital)

The Mao Zedong statue of Zhiziluo salutes the New York film critics for their reviews of Zhao Dayong's Ghost TownGHOST TOWN
April 10, 2011
2 PM
Screening Room
by Zhao Dayong

A remote village in southwest China is haunted by traces of its cultural past while its residents piece together their existence. Tucked away in a rugged corner of Yunnan Province, Zhiziluo is a town barely clinging to life. With great intimacy, we encounter the remaining residents, including squatters, elderly preachers, and lovers facing harsh financial realities. Ghost Town brings audiences face to face with people left behind by China’s new economy. (2008, 169 min, digital)

1428
April 14, 2011
7:30 PM
Screening Room
by Du Haibin

This award-winning documentary of the earthquake that devastated China’s Sichuan province in 2008 explores how victims, citizens and government respond to a national tragedy. The Great Sichuan Earthquake took place at 14:28 on May 12, 2008, causing 70,000 deaths and 375,000 casualties. Days later, the filmmaker visited Sichuan to capture the devastation as well as the recovery effort. Survivors were reduced to salvaging destroyed pig farms in the mountains, selling scrap metal for pennies, and pillaging homes. Seven months later, as the nation celebrated Chinese New Year, Du returned to see how life had changed in the stricken villages. Sidestepping the highly controlled media tours, Du found scenes not seen on official TV, exposing the gap between the Party’s promises and the disaster victims’ reality. (2009, 117 min, digital)

Fortune Teller

FORTUNE TELLER
April 17, 2011
2 PM
Screening Room
by Xu Tong

Xu Tong is one of the most controversial documentary filmmakers working in China today, who insists on telling the stories of people on the far margins of society. Raw and loosely structured, the film introduces us to Li Baicheng, a traditional Chinese fortune teller, and his wife Little Pearl, who is mentally and physically impaired. Li’s clients are largely local prostitutes. Police crackdowns on unlicensed workers threaten all of their livelihoods, and Li Baicheng and Little Pearl are forced into an uncertain future. (2010, 157 min, digital)

DISORDER
April 21, 2011
7:30 PM
Screening Room
by Huang Weikai

This one–of–a–kind news documentary captures, with remarkable freedom, the anarchy, violence, and seething anxiety animating China’s major cities today. As urbanization in China advances at a breakneck pace, Chinese cities teeter on the brink of mayhem. One man dances in the middle of traffic while another tries to jump from a bridge before dozens of onlookers. Pigs run wild on a highway while dignitaries swim in a polluted river. These scenes, unshowable on China’s heavily controlled television networks, reflect an emerging underground media, one that can truly capture the ground-level upheaval of Chinese society. (2009, 58 min, digital)

For a full list of upcoming events, visit our Events Page.

For more films made available by dGenerate, please visit our catalog.

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