In the current issue of Agenda Beijing Magazine, Laura Petryshen interviews dGenerate Films’ VP of Programming and Education Kevin B. Lee on the company’s work distributing Chinese independent films. Some excerpts:
How did you come to found dGenerate films?
When our founder Karin Chien came [back] to the US from [her first visit to] Beijing, she definitely needed someone to watch the movies, so I took on the task. Now when one of us goes to China, we each try to pick up as many movies as we can and it’s my job to watch them. So over the past 4-5 years I’ve seen 400 to 500 Chinese independent films. Of those we pick those that we think are the best and that are most likely to catch the interest of American audiences.
How do you find your filmmakers and directors? Why should we be watching their films?
Our filmmakers are inspired to bear witness to realities that aren’t in the media, that others aren’t aware of. There’s a sense of showing things that aren’t being reported.
What has the reception in North America been like for Chinese independent films?
It’s hard to characterize in general terms, as each film has elicited different responses from different viewers. But one recurring phenomenon I’ve observed is a genuine sense of viewers being startled by seeing footage of China that they’ve never previously been exposed to. They really feel the impact of the filmmakers’ collective desire to show China as it really is, removed from the filters of global media. It’s a very different perspective than a vision of China produced by the likes of a US TV or movie company; generally speaking, it feels more embedded and engaged with its subject. Even overseas Chinese have found it an eye-opening experience watching these films, as it’s often their first encounter with films that were made in their homeland but outside of the state system, where many topics and social issues are kept out of view.
Read the full interview at Agenda Beijing.