New Film Offers New Perspective on Tibet

August 25th, 2014
Zanta and her son Yang Qing. Photo: Jocelyn Ford

Zanta and her son Yang Qing. Photo: Jocelyn Ford

In Forbes, Eric Meyer profiles Jocelyn Ford, director of the new documentary Nowhere To Call Home, which chronicles Ford’s own complicated relationship with Zanta, a Tibetan widow who flees to Beijing to give her son a better life. The film had its world premiere at the Museum of Modern Art as part of its current series “Lens on Tibet.”

Ford, a Beijing-based journalist, met Zanta while the latter was peddling on a Beijing street to raise money for her son. Intrigued by the woman’s story, Ford spent three years filming with Zanta and her son and eventually paid the son’s school fees while helping Zanta stand up to her family members in Tibet who opposed her choice to live and work in Beijing.


Meyer discusses the ethical considerations surrounding the film and its director:

Ford faces her own moral dilemma, and she is not shy about exposing this in her film. On the one hand, the foreign journalist is self-serving. She wants to get an inside story about the life of a traditional Tibetan in contemporary China, something the regime in Beijing tries to hide by largely banning foreign correspondents from travelling to Tibetan regions. Ultimately it is the injustices suffered by Zanta, both in Beijing and in her village, that drag the journalist deep into Zanta’s life. It is an infringement of rules for reporters to interfere with the lives of their subjects. Yet, Ford deftly turns this around on the audience. Had she not violated this rule, the world would be less informed about the hardship of Tibetan women like Zanta, and, as a journalist, she would have been more complicit with Chinese censors.

Nowhere To Call Home has also received coverage in the New York Times and South China Morning Post. Writing for the Times, Ian Johnson commends the film:

The film breaks down the sometimes romantic Shangri-La view that Westerners have of Tibet, showing it to be a place with many hidebound traditions, especially discrimination against women. It also offers a shocking portrait of the outright racism that Zanta and other Tibetans face in Chinese parts of the country. And it shows how many members of minorities lack even basic education: Zanta’s sisters are illiterate, unable to count their change in the market or recognize the numbers on a cellphone.

The film screens again at MoMA August 29.


Beijing Independent Film Festival Shut Down by Authorities

August 24th, 2014
Chinese security guards stand on duty near a police car at a junction leading to the venue for the Beijing Independent Film Festival in Beijing Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. (photo: Ng Han Guan, AP)

Chinese security guards stand on duty near a police car at a junction leading to the venue for the Beijing Independent Film Festival in Beijing Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. (photo: Ng Han Guan, AP)

The Associated Press reports that the Beijing Independent Film Festival has been shut down by Chinese authorities:

Chinese authorities blocked an annual independent film festival from opening Saturday, seizing documents and films from organizers and hauling away two event officials in a sign that Beijing is stepping up its already tight ideological controls.

Li Xianting, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund, the organizer of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, said police searched his office and confiscated materials he had gathered over more than 10 years. Li and the festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, were detained by police Saturday night but later released, according to their supporters.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen severe police obstruction over the past few years, but this year’s crackdown is far more serious, Wang said.

“In the past few years, when they forced us to cancel the festival, we just moved it to other places, or delayed the screenings,” he said. “But this year, we cannot carry on with the festival. It is completely forbidden.”

Read the full report from Didi Tang at the Associated Press.

11th Beijing Independent Film Festival announces program

August 21st, 2014

The 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival will be held from August 23 to 31,2014, in Li Xianting’s Film Fund. There are 76 films will be screened in this film festival, which include documentary, fiction and experimental film selections. Besides, this year, we also have foreign film sections, which include: Sad Republic – A selection of New Filipino Films, Special section of Japanese Films, and Five Feelings – International Video Art Experience.

The festival will give out the following different awards:
?Documentary Competition?: An Independent Sprit Award, a Jury Prize, and an Excellent Documentary Award
?Fiction? (including short films and animations): Two Best Fictions of the Year Awards
?Experimental Films?(including contemporary arts): Two Experimental Creativity Awards

Complete program listings after the break.

Read the rest of this entry »

Two Week Tibetan Film Series Starts Today at MoMA

August 20th, 2014
Yartsa Rinpoche (Precious Caterpillar), directed by Dorje Tsering Chenaktsang. (Courtesy of Chenaktsang and Trace Foundation)

Yartsa Rinpoche (Precious Caterpillar), directed by Dorje Tsering Chenaktsang. (Courtesy of Chenaktsang and Trace Foundation)

The Museum of Modern Art, in partnership with the Trace Foundation, begins a 12-film series of films from Tibet from today until August 31. The series will include talks with several of the films directors, including a roundtable discussion and opening reception today from 6-8pm. Details can be found at the Trace Foundation website.

From the MOMA press release:

Lens on Tibet includes the world premiere of Tashi Chopel’s The Son of a Herder (2014), an unembellished portrait of the life of a plateau herder in eastern Tibet’s remote Zehok region. The film highlights an existence caught between ideals and reality, modernity and tradition, and individual choices. Yartsa Rinpoche (Precious Caterpillar) (2013), directed by Dorje Tsering Chenaktsang, follows Darlo, an elder in the Amdo region, and his family as they journey 800 kilometers to collect Cordyceps sinensis (in Tibetan, Yartsa-gunbu), which has been called “Tibet’s golden worm” and “The Viagra of the Himalayas.” Yartsa Rinpoche—which is presented in a weeklong run—receives its North American premiere along with Jocelyn Ford’s breakout Nowhere to Call Home (2014), Dan Smyer Yu’s Embrace (2011), Khashem  Gyal’s The Valley of the Heroes (2013), and Dukar Tserang’s They Are One Hundred Years Old (2014).

Lens on Tibet is organized by Sally Berger, Assistant Curator, Department of Film; and Paola Vanzo, Director of Communications and Development, and Kristina Dy-Liacco, Librarian, Trace Foundation. Presented as part of MoMA’s ContemporAsian series.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.