Posts Tagged ‘beijing’

Meishi Street Reviewed in Senses of Cinema

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

In the online journal Senses of Cinema, Luke Robinson reviews the documentary Meishi Street (directed by Ou Ning) which will screen this weekend at the Melbourne International Film Festival, as part of “Street Level Visions“, a series of contemporary Chinese independent documentaries.

Meishi Street shows ordinary Beijing citizens taking a stand against the planned destruction of their homes for the 2008 Olympics. An excerpt from Robinson’s review:

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Shelly on Film: Fall Festival Report, Part One: Keeping Independence in Beijing

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

By Shelly Kraicer

Just having a party: This year's Beijing International Film Festival had to take a more casual tone. (photo: ArtInfo)

I’m often asked how it is that I keep track of new Chinese independent films. One answer: just be in China for a few weeks in October and November. The film festival season here is packed right now. Two major indie film festivals have just concluded: the 6th Beijing Independent Film Festival (BIFF, in the Beijing exurb of Songzhuang) and the 8th China Independent Film Festival (in Nanjing). In Beijing itself, we’ve had the 4th First Film Festival (an international festival for films by first-time directors) at various campuses in China including Peking University, and the 6th Chinese Young Generation Film Forum. Coming up is the 5th Chongqing Independent Film and Video Festival (CIFVF).

That’s a lot of films and festivals. Of course there is substantial overlap, especially between the three main indie film festivals (BIFF, CIFF, CIFVF). BIFF and CIFF each had its own issues this year: external and internal conflict that showed just how much pressure independent filmmakers are under in China at the moment. These conflicts, which I’ll describe below, also demonstrated the urgency with which these filmmakers conceive of their practice, their autonomy, their mission, and their very existence.

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A Review of Beijing Besieged By Waste, Screening Saturday at Asia Society

Friday, October 28th, 2011

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

Police inspect illegal cooking oil, better known as 'drainage oil', seized during a crackdown in Beijing (Photo: AFP/GETTY)

Part of the documentary film series Visions of a New China at the Asia Society

Beijing Besieged by Waste
Dir. WANG Jiuliang
2011. China. 72 min. Digibeta. English subtitles.

October 29, 2011 – 3:00pm – 4:20pm
New York
725 Park Avenue, New York, NY
$7 members; $9 students/seniors; $11 nonmembers (Series discount available. Click on series link for more information.)

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Recycled cooking oil is known as “di gou you” or “gan shui you” in Mandarin Chinese and has been translated into “gutter oil”,”sewage oil”, or “drainage oil” in English. It first appeared in the Chinese vocabulary roughly a decade ago, when unlicensed production began to exist. This inferior form of cooking oil contains carcinogens such as aflatoxins; it is both unhygienic and unsafe for consumption.

China uses a massive amount of cooking oil every year. Although official statistics are unavailable on the website of the National Bureau of Statistics, 29.3 million tons of vegetable oil was forecast as the total amount of consumption for 2010 to 2011, an almost 9% increase from 26.85 million tons for 2009 to 2010, compared to 22.5 million tons for 2006 to 2007 (Agri Commodity Prices). In 2010, 15% of the total was estimated to go into waste (Xinhua). And out of that amount, 10 – 20% is said to be legally recycled and made into biofuel, while the remaining would likely end up in the hands of underground cooking oil recyclers, who would process it and then sell it back to Chinese restaurants (Telegraph). Because the net profit of such recycled cooking oil was nearly 200% of what it cost, it was an extremely lucrative business (Xinhua).

Concerned with the badly polluted city that he called home, Chinese freelance photojournalist and independent filmmaker Wang Jiuliang began an investigation of all of the landfill sites in Beijing in October 2008. His project lasted two years, during which time he also came into direct contact with some cooking oil recyclers on the outskirts of Beijing and captured them on camera. Responsibly speaking, Beijing’s pollution and its attendant problems were indeed bigger and deeper than they seemed. Now his documentary Beijing Besieged by Waste (2010) on the investigation has been completed. It was screened for the Foreign Correspondents Club in China on October 13, 2011 at the Embassy of Poland in Beijing. It was on the China Next (CNEX) Campus Tour in Canada last month. It screened once at Beijing’s art house movie theater, Broadway Cinematheque MOMA (BC MOMA). And as of right now, it is playing at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (Oct 13-22).

Below are some of my thoughts on the film and information that I have gathered about it.

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Beijing New Youth Film Festival sets stage for young directors

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

By Genevieve Carmel

Participating filmmakers at the 2nd Annual Beijing New Youth Film Festival (photo: Genevieve Carmel)

The 2nd annual Beijing New Youth Film Festival was held from September 9-18. Organized by the Trainspotting Culture Salon, this young festival makes space for new directors to showcase their work, connect with more experienced filmmakers, and receive feedback from peers and critics. Screenings and discussions were held at CNEX, Trainspotting, and the Wenjin International Art Center at Tsinghua University. The jury included a diverse team of authors, creators, and art critics, in addition to Fifth Generation filmmaker Lv Yue, who was the director of photography for works including Zhang Yimou’s To Live and Feng Xiaogang’s Aftershock.

The festival was divided into three program sections: An invitational section featuring new work by distinguished directors, a competition section for new directors, and an Austrian section, programmed by the Austro Sino Arts Program. The opening and closing films of the festival were Pema Tseden’s Old Dog and Zhao Liang’s Together, respectively.

This year’s New Youth Image Award was given to the early Li Xianting Film School graduate Zheng Kuo for his second documentary The Cold Winter, which follows the 2009 artist demonstrations against the demolition of art districts surrounding Beijing’s 798 art zone. The New Youth Image Award was also bestowed on painter-turned-filmmaker Tao Huaqiao for his partly dramatized documentary Luohan, about gang culture in his Jiangxi Province hometown. The animated film Piercing Me by Liu Jian and the documentary Mirror of Emptiness by Ma Li received Distinguished Technical Awards. Mirror of Emptiness, about a Buddhist monastery on the Tibetan Plateau, also won the Special Jury Award. Finally, Deng Bochao’s documentary Under the Split Light, about the disappearance and preservation of Hakka cultural traditions on Hainan Island, received the Humanitarian Award.

The following is a full list of films screened at the festival:

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Ai Weiwei on Beijing, a “Nightmare” of a City

Friday, September 9th, 2011

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

The Olympic Stadium in Beijing, designed by Ai Weiwei in the city he now calls "a nightmare"


In his essay posted on The Daily Beast on August 28, 2010, artist Ai Weiwei rants about Beijing being a nightmarish city for anyone to live in. He says that the rapid economic progress of China has ironically made its capital unrecognizable and its people identity-less, and the country’s political rigidity has only worsened these problems.

In a depressing overview of the people living in Beijing, Ai sorts them into one of the two categories. One, he says, are the money-grabbers and power-worshippers who are distressingly predictable. “You don’t want to look at a person walking past because you know exactly what’s on his mind.” Frustrated, he goes on. “No curiosity. And no one will even argue with you.” The other category, which refers to the mass middle to low wage earners in the city, sounds just as pitiful. “I see people on public buses, and I see their eyes, and I see they hold no hope,” Ai observes.
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History in Progress, with Gaps: The National Museum of China, Part Two

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

By Shelly Kraicer

Visitors seem dazzled by the might of painterly propaganda in the "90th anniversary of the CCP" painting exhibit.

A major function of the National Museum of China is its definition and display of Chinese history under the Party. This section, somewhat romantically entitled “The Road of Rejuvenation” takes up a major part of NMC’s northern section. I walked through it all, from the Opium War to “China in Space.”

Inside the Grand Hall. If it looks like an elegant version of a terminal, it's because the German architects specialize in airports.

First, we enter a sculptural antichamber. This has got to be one of the weirdest immersive sculptural environments I’ve ever seen. An enormous entrance hall has been clotted with what looks like baked clay (I guess it’s depressingly expensive bronze that preserves the original rough slapdash clay “style” of the sculpture). On the left, scenes of feudal China (somewhat more beguiling than depressing, to my eye). On the right, scenes of modern China under the Leadership of the Party (really bleak and ugly, a lot of it is weirdly blank but one can make out a kindergarten model style mini-HK skyline, a high speed train rushing across the Tibetan plateau, and a fast cosmic ball of something, whirring with lumpy clay energy. In the middle, brutally (or, rather, I should say boldly) cleaving past and future in two is a sleek perforated sculpture, designed like a retro jet age style symbolic representation of what must be the progressive force of the Chinese Communist Party (think 1930s deco aggressively angled car hood ornament the size of a small jet). Suitably ideologically seasoned, I entered the Road of Rejuvenation galleries.

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Heavenly Culture, with Product Placement: A Tour of the National Museum of China, Part One

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

By Shelly Kraicer

The gallery of Ancient Chinese art in the National Museum of China may be the new highlight of anyone's visit to Beijing.

Beijing’s new National Museum of China opened in March 2011. It’s been steadily expanding inside since, opening more and more galleries to the public. Recently, the galleries of ancient art were finally opened, so I decided it was time to make a thorough visit (I’d been once before in early May just to take a look at the building) and see how the Chinese nation choses to present itself in a grand museum setting.

First of all, the setting. It is very grand. Super gigantic-grand. Reports in Western media describe an amusingly direct series of phone calls by planners of the National Museum of China (NMC) to western museum experts. Sample questions: “What is the floor space of the Louvre?” “What about the British Museum in London?” Clearly, the architects’ brief included making this the Largest Museum In The World (to match Beijing Capital Airport’s Terminal 3, the Largest Building In The World; the Great Wall, and so on). Apparently they succeeded, and out of the shell of two older museums on Tiananmen Square, the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of the Chinese Revolution, the National Museum of China is being born, a giant monument to China’s fabled 5000 year history, and as we shall see, to the faithful guardianship of this immense history by the Chinese Communist Party. “Is being born” because the NMC is still a work in progress. Vast swathes of the building are still uninhabited, forthcoming galleries uninstalled. But I would estimate that at least half of the Museum is now open, more than enough for a full day of provocative and sometimes entrancing museum-going.

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Beijing Demolition for Subway Sprawl Provokes Resistance

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

By Kevin B. Lee

Demolition Dominates the Residents of Beijing in "Meishi Street"

In China Beat, Jared Hall reports on the spate of public protests that have been prevalent throughout the expansion of the Beijing subway system. Hall focuses on the story of Wang Shibo, whose family shop was slated for demolition to make way for a subway station, at the risk of ruining the family financially:

According to Wang, the family invested practically everything they had to renovate the small clothing shop. But when the subway corporation abruptly presented a notice of eviction, they were reportedly offered just two percent of their investment back in compensation. The very public confrontation with the subway corporation that followed attracted the interest of the international press and a delegation from the National People’s Congress. The shop was torn down two weeks later, but not before an agreement was quietly reached with the family.

Dramatic as the Wang family’s crisis in the face of demolition may be (at one point Wang’s parents doused themselves with gasoline and threatened to burn themselves), it’s a situation that is anything but uncommon in Beijing. (more…)

Shelly on Film: Beijing’s First Official Film Festival

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

By Shelly Kraicer

I previously wrote here about the cancellation of the 2011 Beijing Independent Documentary Film Festival (DOChina) at Songzhuang. As a companion piece, let’s take a look at the other important film event scheduled for roughly the same time in Beijing, the First Beijing International Film Festival (Di yi jie Beijing guoji dianying ji), which took place from April 23 to 28, 2011.

The BJIFF Opening Gala was more than spectacular, as far as these things go. An obviously huge budget was expended on large scale staged showpieces, set up for what was reported to be a “live television broadcast” managed by CCTV3, in Beijing’s most spectacular theatre, the Opera Hall of National Center for the Performing Arts just beside the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square.

CCTV news clip Here.

It makes sense that the fledgling BJIFF would shower a large part of its apparently substantial resources on this splashy opening show. The festival seems to be about scale, civic and national power, and about positioning Beijing — institutionally, internationally, industrially, and in the media’s frame of reference — as the centre of China’s visible film culture. That Shanghai has been host to China’s most prominent long-running film fest, in fact the only one with a real international profile, was an impediment to this image Beijing is eager to project. Hence the BJIFF, tasked to reposition in “film festival” terms Beijing as the acknowledged and unrivaled centre of Chinese cinema.
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Beijing Independent Documentary Festival Cancelled

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Jonathan Landreth reports for the Hollywood Reporter:

BEIJING – Organizers of a long-standing Chinese independent documentary film festival pulled the plug on their own May 1-7 event a day after the state-run First Beijing International Film Festival announced a documentary section, local media reported Wednesday.

Organizers of the Eighth Documentary Film Festival China in the Beijing suburb of Tongzhou surprised participants by canceling the event that for seven years has been one of the country’s few outlets for non-fiction films made outside the state-approved filmmaking system.

“I was surprised that they suddenly canceled the event,” director Xu Xin told the English-language Global Times late Tuesday.

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