New Profile of Fearless Filmmaker Hu Jie

August 15th, 2014


Hu Jie (photo: Tania Branigan for The Observer)

Hu Jie (photo: Tania Branigan for The Observer)

At the Guardian, Tania Branigan interviews Hu Jie, director of many startling documentaries that reveal the untold stories of China’s 1950s and 1960s social reform campaigns, such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. His latest film, Spark, tells the story of students who published an underground newspaper criticizing the government during the Great Famine of the 1950s.

Branigan reports:

The subjects Hu tackles are so sensitive that some of those involved have not discussed them even with their families. He has persuaded a remarkable range of witnesses to go on camera; some are grateful for the chance to talk after years of suppressing the truth.

“I’m trying to save all of this material. If these people die, the memories are gone,” Hu said.

But some simply refuse to talk, and one of the interviews in Spark stops abruptly when the interviewee receives a phone call warning him not to speak. Such challenges help to explain why the film was five years in the making.

“I don’t start with a preconception of these films,” Hu said. “It’s a discovery process for me. I’ve always known there’s something there, but not quite what it was. In the process of making these films I find out.

“I knew there was a publication, but didn’t know what it was about; I just knew people died for it.

Earlier this year Hu was profiled by Matthew Bell for Public Radio International’s program The World.

Hu Jie’s films Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul, Though I Am Gone and East Wind State Farm are part of the dGenerate Films Collection.



Free Documentary Series Explores China’s Environmental Crisis

August 14th, 2014

The Asia Society in New York City announces an exciting film series, “Waking the Green Tiger: Documentaries from the Front Lines of China’s Environmental Crisis,” screening August 18-27. The screening features four new documentaries filmed in China showing the nation’s current environmental challenges from multiple perspectives. Admission to the series is free.

The Asia Society website introduces the program as follows:

“The environmental cost of China’s breakneck development can be witnessed across the smoggy skylines of its megacities. But not all of China’s environmental problems are so visually apparent, from soils contaminated by cadmium and arsenic, to diminishing groundwater supplies unfit for drinking. The films in this series of Chinese environmental documentaries make visible some of the hidden consequences of China’s rapid growth and the people fighting to save their communities and livelihoods.”

Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Asia Society website. Film titles and descriptions after the break.

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Voices of Praise for Environmental Food Documentary “What’s For Dinner?”

August 13th, 2014
Scene from "What's for Dinner?" (directed by Jian Yi)

Scene from “What’s for Dinner?” (directed by Jian Yi)

One of the newest additions to the dGenerate Films Collection, What’s for Dinner? is a short documentary that provides a unique look into the rapidly growing consumption of meat in China and the increasing industrialization of agriculture. Produced by the environmental organization Brighter Green, the film examines the impact that industrial food production and consumption is having on sustainability, public health, food security, climate change and animal welfare.

The film has already made an impact in screenings around the world by opening audiences’ eyes to the stark new realities of food in China and its implications on the rest of the globe. The following testimonials were collected among esteemed authors, scholars and activists in the arenas of public health, environmental studies, East Asian studies, and agricultural and animal studies.

What’s for Dinner? is part of the dGenerate Films collection, and is available for order at Icarus Films. Find out more about the film.

To organize a screening of the film in your area, contact Icarus Films at rentals (at) icarusfilms (dot) com.

“What’s For Dinner? documents in gripping detail China’s headlong transition to industrial animal agriculture and the tragic impact it has on animals, public health, and the environment. The film triumphs in vividly highlighting the inexorable economic logic driving the consolidation of pigs into nascent CAFOs that are burgeoning across the countryside to meet China’s growing demand for meat. Alongside an empathetic but critical portrayal of China’s growing consumer preference for meat, “What’s for Dinner?” also captures the rise of a vegan/vegetarian undercurrent that’s emerging to counter the trend toward factory farming… The film would be an ideal supplement to any course exploring the environmental, economic, and ethical implications of animal agriculture.“ - James McWilliams, PhD, Author

“What’s for Dinner? brings into sharp contrast the China of today and the China of twenty years ago. It is an easily absorbable film that can be used as a learning tool for any student interested in the potential impacts of meat consumption on the earth writ large, including chronic diseases and the environment. It also highlights the influence of Western culture and economic affluence on eating patterns across the world, a phenomenon that will be of interest to anyone studying or teaching global public health. A highly recommended film.” - Amy Joyce, Associate Director, Public Health Practice, NYU Global Institute of Public Health

“What’s For Dinner is an urgent and compelling documentary about the globalization of industrial meat production. It documents the consequences of rising meat consumption in China, detailing its impact on health, labor, animal welfare, and the environment. I can attest to the pedagogical and political power of this film.” - Maria Elena Garcia, Director, Comparative History of Ideas Program, University of Washington

“What’s For Dinner? is a powerful teaching tool. The film is engaging for lay audiences and sophisticated enough for experts in related fields — I would highly recommend to both.” - Mark Foran, MD, MPH, NYU School of Medicine

“We often read about the environmental and health impacts of food production in the US, but what about in rapidly growing China? What’s For Dinner? introduces us to the challenges of large-scale animal agriculture in China. It surveys the “big picture” – food shortages, industrialization, and environmental impact – through a set of clear, engaging interviews and personal stories. This is an excellent film for environmental studies or other students interested in the origins and impacts posed by animal agriculture in a global context.” -Christopher P. Schlottmann, Associate Director of Environmental Studies, New York University

“What’s For Dinner?” delivers an insightful presentation of the many challenges posed by China’s expanding animal agriculture.” - Peter J. Li, Associate Professor of East Asian Politics, University of Houston-Downtown

“I used What’s For Dinner? for the first time in my Animals in Commodities class in the Canisius College Anthrozoology Masters program last semester… The students found the film very useful in helping us to look at the connections between meat production and consumption, status, and globalization.” - Margo DeMello, Professor of Sociology, Cultural Studies and Anthropology, Canisius College and Central New Mexico Community College

Chinese Film Festival Studies Update

August 11th, 2014

Chris Berry and Luke Robinson share the following update to the Chinese Film Festival Studies Website:

NEWS: In July, media in and outside China reported that the county of
Anji, in Zhejiang Province, announced that it would be partnering with the
Cannes Film Festival to build a new “film city”. Inevitably, this will
apparently include an international film festival. We link on the website
to the original China Daily report on this project. In addition, Chris
Berry, one of the original network project, has just published a review in
Senses of Cinema of this year’s Far East Film Festival, which took place
between April and May in Udine, Italy. We have a link to the report on the

ARCHIVE: With the help of Meng Jing, we have now compiled a bibliography
of writing in Chinese on Chinese film festivals, covering academic and
non-academic writing. This file can now be accessed under the Archives
section of the website. This bibliography is partial and ongoing, and is
primarily derived from searches of academic databases, film journals, and
online search engines. If you have suggestions for articles, blog posts or
commentary that we have missed, please contact us directly so that we can
update it!

“What’s For Dinner?” Tours China, Bringing Awareness of Food Industry

August 8th, 2014

10407297_10152597366086177_956937610111008085_nAt the website Our Hen House, Alessandra Seiter interviews Wanqing Zhou, Associate at the environmental policy organization Brighter Green. This summer Zhou organized an extensive screening and discussion tour of the film “What’s For Dinner” across China, accompanied by the film’s director Jian Yi. They have organized over a dozen screenings in six cities to date.

Zhou shares her experience showing the film:

OHH: Why did you want to bring What’s For Dinner? to China?

WZ: The issues discussed in What’s For Dinner? are very relevant to China. Without the public becoming aware of them, nothing in the country can be changed. People in China are just starting to be exposed to information regarding meat consumption, pollution, climate change, and health. However, the information tends to be quite general, and there is not yet a local documentary film that illustrates the problems. I think it’s very important the Chinese people see reflections and reevaluations of animal agriculture that come from within the society, as shown in What’s For Dinner?.

OHH: How have attendees responded to the film?

WZ: The attendees come from all educational and cultural backgrounds – from illiterate villagers to graduates from top universities, both Chinese and foreign-born. They’re attracted to the screenings by different facets of the topic, including health and nutrition, food safety, the environment, business opportunities, and more.

People have spoken highly of What’s For Dinner?, saying that it’s mild yet alerting, resonates with their daily life, and inspires change.


Read the full interview at Our Hen House.

What’s for Dinner? is part of the dGenerate Films collection, and is available for order at Icarus Films. Find out more about the film.

To organize a screening of the film in your area, contact Icarus Films at rentals (at) icarusfilms (dot) com.

Chinese Filmmaker Speaks Out on the Environmental Impact of Eating Meat

August 7th, 2014
Jian Yi, director of "What's for Dinner?" (Image: BrighterGreenNY)

Jian Yi, director of “What’s for Dinner?” (Image: BrighterGreenNY)

China Dialogue recently published an interview with filmmaker Jian Yi, director of What’s For Dinner?, an investigative documentary on the meat industry in China and its effects on the country’s people and environment. The interview, conducted by Tom Levitt, includes the following highlights:

TL: What factors do you think are increasing meat consumption in China?

JY: I was amazed by the impact the meat industry has on the environment we live in, but what worried me more is that in China, with one fifth of the world’s people, meat production is going to expand and become more intensified in line with economic growth. There’s plenty of research showing that this, coupled with China’s huge population, will be hugely bad news for human health, animal welfare, food security, climate change, and many other fields. And the root cause of this is the changing values of the Chinese people.

TL: How aware do you think the Chinese people are of the issues covered in the film? 

JY: The vast majority aren’t aware of the effect of the meat industry on the environment. It’s important information, easily found online. So why haven’t they seen it? Humans can have a kind of selective blindness sometimes, not just in China but everywhere. And our social values still favour money, enjoyment, quick rewards. Civil society is weak, there’s little space for public debate, and many more obvious environmental issues aren’t being taken seriously either, never mind the more easily ignored impact of the meat industry.

The full interview can be accessed at China Dialogue.

What’s for Dinner? is part of the dGenerate Films collection, and is available for order at Icarus Films. Find out more about the film.

Chinese Film Fest Studies Update

July 10th, 2014

An update from Chris Berry and Luke Robinson, organizers of the Chinese Film Fest Studies website:

In the past two months, news has emerged of details for the Qingdao
International Film Festival, slated to commence in 2017. Both the
Hollywood Reporter and Screen Daily reported on the organisational line-up
announced for the festival, which is the brainchild of the Dalian-based
Wanda Group. In addition, the 17th Shanghai International Film Festival
took place in June. This year, there was particular controversy
surrounding accusations that the festival “fixed” a press conference
around a sensitive local film whose star had recently been arresting for
soliciting. FilmBiz Asia has a report on this kerfuffle. Finally, Kiki Yu
Tianqi (University of Nottingham Ningbo) has just published a report on
last year’s Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival in Studies
in Documentary Film, which we link to here.

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Sydney Film Festival Spotlights Variety of Chinese Cinema

May 19th, 2014

The 2014 Sydney Film Festival (June 4-15, 2014) includes a special showcase of Chinese cinema, curated by esteemed critic and programmer Shelly Kraicer. The program details are as follows:

China continues to be one of the most compulsively fascinating countries on the planet: it’s not an exaggeration to suggest that China’s future may very well be our future. Chinese movies lay out spellbinding ways to try to grasp that country’s complexities, its unfathomable beauty and its ongoing problems.

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Chinese Film Fest Studies website update

May 2nd, 2014

Chris Berry and Luke Robinson of the Chinese Film Festival studies website ( announce the following updates to the site:

NEWS: We have news here of the Washington DC Chinese Film Festival, due
to take place later this year in the USA. In addition, the 4th edition of
the Beijing International Film Festival is drawing to a close. There has
been general coverage in the trade press – we include here a link to an
article in The Hollywood Reporter on the festival film awards, along with
a gallery of photos – but Oliver Stone’s comments on politics and the
Chinese film industry were also widely discussed. A link to Screen Daily’s
report (behind paywall) on this incident is included.

GALLERIES: A small gallery of photos to accompany the report from our
second network meeting and accompanying one-day conference, both held at
Hong Kong University, have been added.

ARCHIVE: We include here a link to an interview in Chinese with Dr Lin
Wen-Chi of the Taipei Film Archive, organiser of the Golden Harvest
Awards, conducted by network member Ming-Yeh Rawnsley. Ming-Yeh is
researching the Golden Harvest Awards as part of her work with the network.

EVENTS: Finally, a written report on the second network workshop, and the
one-day conference that followed – both of which took place at Hong Kong
University on March 31st and April 1st, 2014 – is included under Events.
It’s accessible both as an html page and as a downloadable pdf.

Journal of Chinese Cinemas Call for Papers

May 1st, 2014

Journal of Chinese Cinemas is a major peer-reviewed academic publication
devoted to the study of Chinese film produced anywhere in the world. Now
into its eighth year of publication, it has found a new home with
Routledge from 2014. It is thus an opportune moment to invite new
submissions that reflect the current and future directions of scholarship
on Chinese cinemas. Recently published articles include topics ranging
from China’s distribution systems in the 1920s and 1930s and
representations of the Nanjing massacre to Hong Kong independent cinema
and kung fu comedies made in Malaysia. We also welcome proposals for
special issues on any topic, an example being a forthcoming issue on
Deleuze and Chinese cinema.
Manuscripts for consideration should be sent to Song Hwee Lim (Editor) at
shlim (at) or Julian Ward (Associate Editor) at
Julian.ward (at)

Authors must submit manuscripts electronically. Electronic submissions
should be sent as email attachments using a standard word-processing
program. Please check this webpage for instructions before submission:

Song Hwee LIM
Associate Professor
Department of Cultural and Religious Studies
Leung Kau Kui Building
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong