Posts Tagged ‘aftershock’

Shelly on Film: Deeper Into Dragons and Tigers

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

By Shelly Kraicer

Rumination (dir. Xu Ruotao)

The 2010 Vancouver International Film Festival (September 30 to October 15) has just concluded. This was my fourth year programming Chinese language films for VIFF’s Dragons and Tigers section for East Asian cinema; this year’s edition featured 43 features and 21 shorts, co-curated by Tony Rayns and myself. I selected 19 features and three shorts: 12 from China, 4 from Hong Kong, 3 from Taiwan, 2 from Malaysia, and one from Singapore. Details of the films from the People’s Republic of China, including comments derived from my catalogue notes for VIFF, can be found below.

Within the D&T section, the Dragons and Tigers Award for Young Cinema, programmed by Tony Rayns, featured 8 films by young, as yet “undiscovered” directors. The jury, comprised of Jia Zhangke, Bong Joon-ho, and Denis Côté, awarded its prize to the Japanese film Good Morning World!, directed by Hirohara Satoru. Two special mentions were awarded: one to the Chinese film Rumination (Fanchu), by Xu Ruotao, and one to Phan Dang Di’s Vietnamese film Don’t Be Afraid B!

As usual, I chose more films from China than from any other territory. I try each year to balance at least two goals in my programming: I want to give VIFF audiences a sense of the increasing variety of Chinese language filmmaking, both in the independent sector, and in commercial genres. At the same time, it has always been VIFF’s policy and my own personal preference to highlight the work of independent young filmmakers working outside of the system of official censorship and distribution (independent tizhiwai films). Indie documentary filmmaking continues to be particularly strong in China, and I could only choose a few examples: it would have been easy to devote the bulk of my 9 feature length film slots to Chinese independent films this year.

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Shelly on Film: Tremors and Traumas: Notes on Three Chinese Earthquake Movies

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

By Shelly Kraicer

Buried (dir. Wang Libo)

It’s been earthquake movie season in China ever since the terrible Wenchuan earthquake that struck Sichuan province on May 12th 2008. I’ve seen fourteen of these films since then — documentaries, features, and shorts, including titles like May Day, Don’t Cry Mom, Who Killed Our Children, and Quake de Love — and I’ve by no means done a systematic search. This doesn’t include the films that mention the earthquake in passing: the number would then increase three- or four-fold.

What makes this subject so essential for Chinese filmmakers to grapple with? The Sichuan earthquake is a disaster seared into the consciousness of most people living in China, where national mass media gave saturation coverage to the earthquake and its aftermath. The subject naturally lends itself both to propaganda-style tales of heroic rescure and moral uplift, and equally to outsider critiques of government policies that made the destruction worse. It seems that there is an earthquake for every political colouring, and every possible calibration of mass media coverage (and exploitation).

I’d like to look a bit more closely at a couple of films from what we might call opposite ends of the spectrum, and one right in the middle. On one end is Wang Libo’s Buried (Yanmai), an independent documentary from 2009. Situated at the other end of is Feng Xiaogang’s massive blockbuster Aftershock (Tangshan da dizhen, 2010), the most popular Chinese film in history, measured by the box office. And right in the middle is 1428, Du Haibin’s documentary from 2009.

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Cinematic Earthquakes: Thoughts on Aftershock and 1428

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

By Isabella Tianzi Cai and Kevin B. Lee

Aftershock (dir. Feng Xiaogang)

The 1976 Tangshan Earthquake was one of the worst natural disasters in China’s history and believed to be the deadliest earthquake of the twentieth century. It had a magnitude of 7.8 and an estimated number of casualties between 212,419 to 719,000. Aftershock, director Feng Xiaogang’s dramatic feature about the Tangshan Earthquake, is set to be released July 22. Budgeted at 138 million RMB (over $20 million US), it is primed to be the film event of the summer for Chinese cinemas. To behold such a big-budget spectacular about a historical tragedy raises several questions about the film, chiefly: how it will recount the details of a historical tragedy while satisfying audiences as big-budget mass entertainment?

It is worth noting that the Censorship Board of the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television of China gave Aftershock virtually no obstacle in production and distribution. Such lack of interference is very rare within the Chinese film industry. Many board members are said to have cried during the screening of the film, feeling deeply touched by the story. Clearly it is a state-approved account of history, every word, sentiment and action reviewed and approved. What bearing this has on the merits of the film remains to be seen upon its release. For now, we can contrast Feng Xiaogang’s production with another recent film about a similar historic tragedy in China.
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