Posts Tagged ‘buried’

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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Controversial Earthquake Documentary Now on YouTube

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Buried (dir. Wang Libo)

Wang Libo’s film Buried was one of the prizewinners of the 2009 Beijing Documentary Film Festival. This probing documentary was made in the aftermath of the 2008 earthquake that shook Sichuan province (an event covered in detail by Du Haibin’s 1428, playing next month at the Los Angeles Film Festival). The film is now available in its entirety on YouTube; it’s embedded in its entirety on our site, following the break.

Instead of focusing directly at the Sichuan earthquake, Wang’s film looks back at controversies surrounding the 1976 Tangshan Earthquake that killed over 200,000 people. Using a range of expert testimonies, Wang builds a provocative argument that Chinese officials had significant information forewarning of an imminent earthquake, but did not take sufficient action to help prevent the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. The implications of the film’s conclusions bear heavily on the Chinese government’s handling of both the Tangshan and the Sichuan earthquake. Buried leaves disturbing questions about the power and responsibility of government in disaster management.

Director’s Statement:

The 1976 Tangshan Earthquake left a lot of open questions. Before the earthquake, seismological personnel in Tangshan and quake experts in Beijing had already warned of an imminent quake. But in the end, more than 240,000 people had to pay with their lives, causing a shocking tragedy of massive proportions. Why did this happen? In the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake about 100,000 people were killed. Faced with terrible quakes, the human race repeats tragedy time and time again. It is terrible that people can only offer money and bland tears after the disaster – when better preparation could have saved lives. A nation has to courageously face its own weakness to remain hopeful.

– Wang Libo

Click through to watch the entire film, embedded on YouTube:

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Hail! Hail! Hail! The State of Chinese Cinema, Part Three

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

This is the second part of a three-part essay by Zhang Xianmin on the state of contemporary Chinese cinema. Read Parts One and Two.

Translation by Yuqian Yan

IV. New Theaters

Another aspect of capital operation is the development of new theaters and their surroundings. A significant trend is that after international capital was fully withdrawn from China due to policy reasons, the newly raised major players are all domestic partnerships.

Megabox Sanlitun Theater, Beijing

Withdrawn capital is mainly from the States and Europe, but those from Hong Kong or Korea are allowed to stay. Even though according to government policy, Hong Kong and Korean capital can only account for a small proportion, their existence allows theaters to maintain their original status as international chain brands. For example, the new theater built in the middle of Sanlitun, Beijing uses a Korean theater brand. One reason is that Hong Kong and Korean investors sometimes agree to disguise international capital under the name of domestic capital through an intermediary, whereas European and American investors always hesitate to make such a suspicious deal. For instance, Warner has stopped expanding its business in China for years. But European and American giants are just waiting for new policies that will offer better opportunities. In the long run, more than half of the Chinese theaters will be controlled by American capital in the future.

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