“Everybody Should Be Watching” – South China Morning Post Profile on dGenerate

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

Oxhide 2 (dir. Liu Jiayin)

“Film distribution is more often driven by profit than a love of movies, but that’s not true of Karin Chien’s dGenerate Films.” The South China Morning Post profiles dGenerate in a March 6, 2011 article, which can be viewed here as a .pdf.

Reporter Richard James Havis distinguishes dGenerate from most other film distributors. At dGenerate, as Havis explains, dGenerate only picks films that they believe “everyone will benefit from seeing.”

More after the break.

Another exceptional aspect of dGenerate is its “remarkably hands-on” operation: “Most of the films are sourced directly from the filmmakers themselves during visits to the mainland, then brought out of the country by hand.” Chien and others go to China and meet individual filmmakers on a regular basis. There, the filmmakers generously give copies of their films for consideration. “I usually come back with about 50 DVDs,” Chien says.

Chien distinguishes the films on the dGenerate catalog from other films about China that cater to a western perspective. These films receive wide recognition in the US and beyond, but they are not exactly dGenerate’s cup of tea. Havis states, “Refreshingly, Chien is not interested in films which have obvious commercial potential in the West. She prefers experimental works and documentaries.”

To illustrate, San Yuan Li by artist Ou Ning is an experimental video first distributed by dGenerate. Chien describes the film: “the moviemakers used six cameramen to produce a panoramic view of a village that has literally become trapped by the sprawling expansion of Guangzhou.” Disorder, “a 2009 documentary by Huang Weikai. . . ‘is an hour-long abstract documentary . . . essentially about the absurdities of daily life in China – a pig on a highway, people trying to fix a burst water main – the absurdities that are now happening on a massive scale in the country.’” And Liu Jiayin’s Oxhide II “takes place at a dining table and it’s composed of just nine shots. The camera never moves, and the frame remains static except when it cuts to the next shot. You watch a family preparing a dinner of dumplings. You see an intimate portrait of family dynamics. It’s very powerful,” Chien says.

What the aforementioned films as well as the others films in dGenerate’s catalog have in common is their independent spirit, which is something essential to the work of these Chinese filmmakers and, as Chien and others claim, has been lost on American soil. Chien praises China’s digital generation of film: “They are made with digital cameras and whatever cast and crew the director can get access to – they are often family members. The directors work on a small scale, so there’s a lot of flexibility in the way they cover their chosen subjects. I discovered a beautiful sense of freedom in their films. Because they operate completely outside of the system, and have no desire to court the system, they are free to do what they want.”

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