Posts Tagged ‘censorship’

CinemaTalk: Interview with Zhu Rikun, Curator of Jacob Burns “Hidden China” Series, on Ai Weiwei and Chinese Indie Filmmaking

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

This October the Jacob Burns Film Center presents “Hidden China,” a monthlong series of independent documentaries produced in China, selected Zhu Rikun, producer, programmer and founder of Fanhall Studio. Zhu Rikun is a major figure in contemporary Chinese independent film, having produced such acclaimed films as Karamay and Winter Vacation. Earlier in 2012 he served as an advisor on “Hidden Histories,” a series of Chinese independent documentaries co-curated by Gertjan Zuilhof and Gerwin Tamsma for the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The centerpiece of the series was a retrospective of the documentaries of Ai Weiwei. Many of those selections are included in the “Hidden China” series at the Jacob Burns Film Center.

dGenerate Films’ Kevin B. Lee recorded this interview with Zhu Rikun during the Rotterdam series, focusing on the significance of Ai Weiwei as a documentary filmmaker and how they reflect developments in documentary filmmaking, citizen journalism and freedom of information and expression in today’s China.

Interview transcribed by Stephanie Hsu.

Kevin Lee: Looking at Ai Weiwei and his films, it seems he’s made films in two different Chinas. We look at a movie like Fairytale or Ordos 100—these are documentaries about how the Chinese art world is one of unlimited money and prestige. It’s a world the ruling powers approve of, because they think it will help elevate China in the eyes of the world. And so they work with Ai Weiwei as a famous artist to help promote that view. At the same time, he makes these highly socially critical films, like Disturbing the Peace and One Recluse. How do you see the connection between these two different kinds of movies that he makes? Do you think they are all basically the same kind of film or are they very different?

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Beijing Independent Film Festival Proceeds Under Pressure; Full Program Listed

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore reports for IPS:

The Sixth Beijing Independent Film Festival (BIFF) has had to switch venues twice following pressure by the police, obliging the organisers to inform festival-goers of the last-minute location changes.

BIFF, now in its sixth year, is showing over 50 cutting-edge feature films, documentaries, experimental works and animations in Songzhuang, a village on the outskirts of Beijing which is known as a hub for its avant-garde artistic community. The meddling by the authorities – while stopping short of shutting down the festival itself – has thrown into the spotlight the heavy scrutiny that the independent arts face in China by the one-party state.

Karin Chien, founder of dGenerate Films, a New York-based distribution company that specialises in distributing independent Chinese film to audiences worldwide, says she that was not surprised by the most recent interference from the authorities.

“Authorities caused BIFF to change venues twice, to the point where screenings were being held in the festival’s headquarters,” Chien, who was present at the launch event, wrote to IPS in an email. ‘So when the police showed up to stop the first screening, it wasn’t a surprise. The documentary version of BIFF was canceled by the authorities in May, so I suppose we were all holding our breath to see what would happen this time.”

Read the full report at IPS

Click through to access the full program of The 6th Beijing Independent Film Festival

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CinemaTalk: Conversation with Edward Wong of the New York Times on Chinese Indie Filmmaking

Monday, August 29th, 2011

In the August 14 edition of the New York Times, Edward Wong profiles Zhao Liang, director of two of the most fearlessly independent social documentaries to come from China, Crime and Punishment and Petition. Zhao has recently transitioned to work with the Chinese government to produce Together, an “official” documentary on Chinese HIV victims. That decision and an earlier one involving involving Zhao’s withdrawal from an Australian film festival in support of a political protest by the Chinese government have drawn the criticism of a few occasional supporters and collaborators, including outspoken artist-activist Ai Weiwei, whose detention by the Chinese government this year drew international attention. The article summarizes its central concern in one paragraph:

Mr. Zhao’s evolution from a filmmaker hounded by the government to one whom it celebrates offers a window into hard choices that face directors as they try to carve out space for self-expression in China’s authoritarian system. Like Mr. Zhao, many seek to balance their independent visions with their desires to live securely and win recognition.

Listen to a podcast interview with Wong from the Sinica podcast on Popup Chinese.

We interviewed Wong about his experience reporting this story and its broader relevance on art and culture in contemporary China.

dGF: What attracted you to report on this story?

Edward Wong: While living in Beijing, I had watched and greatly admired two of Zhao Liang’s films, “Crime and Punishment” and “Petition.” In November 2010, I met him at a dinner in the 798 arts district with Karin Chien, the founder of dGenerate Films. At that time, he was working on “Together,” a documentary that the Health Ministry had commissioned as a public service announcement about people with HIV/AIDS. For the film, he had just recorded a song by Peng Liyuan, the celebrity wife of Xi Jinping, the man who is expected to become the next leader of China. Zhao also told me about how he had used social networking websites to track down interview subjects with HIV/AIDS. This new project sounded interesting. We talked a lot too about the making of “Crime and Punishment,” and about how he had lied to police officers to get access to their station house in northeast China.

I found Zhao to be an engaging person, and I thought that he might make an interesting profile. As I spent time with him, I found he had a lot of interesting things to say not only about making films, but also about the role of artists and intellectuals in China.

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Jia Zhangke Speaks Out Against Censorship

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Jia Zhangke speaks out at a forum held at the 2011 Shanghai International Film Festival (photo: china.org.cn)

Originally published in The Guardian, June 16 2011

He had to abandon one film lest it broke anti-pornography laws. Then he ditched a spy movie rather than fill it with Communist party “superheroes”.

The frustration of making films in a country with “cultural over-cleanliness” has led an internationally acclaimed Chinese director to lash out at its censors, a state news site has reported.

Jia Zhangke won the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival in 2006 – apparently earning the approval of China’s leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping, who is expected to become president next year.

But he began his career as an “underground” film-maker – directing movies that were praised abroad but never saw official release in China– and he complained of ongoing battles with censors as he addressed a cultural forum in Shanghai. Unusually, his remarks were reported by an official news site, china.org.cn.

“The only reason that we cannot make genre movies is the barrier that censorship sets,” Jia said.

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Chinese Directors Win at HK Documentary Fest, Say They Enjoy Freedom

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

By Kevin Lee

Zhou Hao presents his film "The Transition Period" at the China Documentary Festival in Hong Kong (photo: Associated Press)

The 2011 Chinese Documentary Festival in Hong Kong concluded earlier this month with awards given to The Transition Period by Zhou Hao and One Day in May by Ma Zhandong. The Transition Period will be distributed later this year by dGenerate, which already distributes one of Zhou’s earlier films, Using.

In a report on the festival for the Associated Press, Min Lee describes The Transition Period as “a rare, fascinating look at how the Chinese government operates:”

Guo Yongchang, who is currently serving a seven-year prison term for accepting bribes of 2 million Chinese yuan ($310,000), is shown discussing how to split tax revenue with lower-level officials, meeting with constituents as well as smearing birthday cake onto the face of an American businessman and wining and dining with Taiwanese businessmen in another drunken episode. A secretly recorded sound section shows Guo ordering an aide to return certain bribes.

Zhou said he met Guo at a dinner and the former official quickly agreed to be filmed. He said he got full access – although avoided shooting Guo’s family life. Guo has seen the documentary – minus the secretly taped section – and didn’t object, Zhou said.

When asked if he worried if such a film could cause trouble for him with the authorities, Zhou responded: “my understanding is that you can basically film everything you want to film. The key question is whether you want to shoot something. If you want to shoot something, you can definitely do it.”

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Shelly on Film: The Film Festival That Wasn’t

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

By Shelly Kraicer

Since the story made various international news outlets late last month, you may already have heard of the cancellation of this year’s DOChina, the independent documentary film festival scheduled for May 1 to May 7 in Songzhuang, an artists’ village in the suburb of Beijing. Well, it was cancelled, but a number of us still made the one and a half hour trek to Songzhuang, whether out of habit or hope that there would be some films waiting for us.

DOChina was supposed to have screened 26 films to its usual audience of Beijingers, filmmakers, Songzhuang residents, and a number of foreign guests (programmers, researchers, film institute reps) who come to form a regular audience. Alas, this was not to be. Several levels of government, represented at a surprisingly high level, made it clear to the sponsoring organisation of the festival, Li Xianting’s Film Fund that this was not the right time for an independent organization to screen Chinese films that the state has not authorized. The Film Fund organizers, unwilling to have their films vetted in advance, chose to call off the festival.

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Superblogger Han Han on Why “China Can’t Be a Cultural Superpower”

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

Han Han (photo: China Digital Times)

Ranked as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in a 2010 survey by Time, 28-year-old Chinese writer and rally racer Han Han has been in fact long well-known within China. While in high school, his essay “Seeing Ourselves in a Cup” won the first prize in China’s New Concept Writing Competition. Not long after, he dropped out of high school to free himself from China’s intensely selective education system and embark on a lifelong journey of self-learning. Since then he has written and published numerous articles and a dozen novels, many of which relate directly to contemporary controversial Chinese political issues.Because he can be exceedingly candid and honest in writing, a number of his blog posts have been censored by the state’s Propaganda Department. However, his blog continues to be one of the hottest in China. There, he helps the silenced minorities in China assert their uttermost concerns; he also critiques the Chinese culture from a fresh perspective of the “post-80s generation:” China’s youth who have grown up during the country’s economic boom and are often characterized as apolitical and consumer-obsessed.

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Tibetan Filmmaker to Be Tried for Subversion

Monday, November 16th, 2009
Dhondup Wangchen (Photo courtesy of the NY Times)

Dhondup Wangchen (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

According to a report on New York Times from Chongqing, China, a self-taught filmmaker who spent five months interviewing Tibetans about their hopes and frustrations living under Chinese rule is facing charges of state subversion after the footage was smuggled abroad and distributed on the Internet and at film festivals around the world.

Dhondup Wangchen, 35, has been detained since March 2008, just weeks after deadly rioting broke out in Tibet. Since October 2007, he began traveling the Tibetan plateau interviewing monks, yak herders and students about their lives. In the resulting 25-minute documentary “Leaving Fear Behind,” most of his subjects freely expressed their disdain for the Han Chinese migrants who are flooding the region and their love for the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile since 1959.

The report also mentions that, with hundreds of lawyers, dissidents and journalists serving time in Chinese prisons, human rights organizations are busy lobbying the White House, members of Congress and the news media to press the Chinese government on such thorny topics as free speech, democracy and greater religious freedom.

Here is a brief biography of Dhondup Wangchen by Tsetring Gyaljong, a cousin who helped him make the documentary, and a news clip about Mr. Wangchen and his project on ABC News.

DV Management Regulation in the People’s Republic of China

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

In the New York Times article “Indie Filmmakers: China’s New Guerillas” reporter Kirk Semple mentions an “undefined gray area” in which today’s digital independent filmmakers work under the close watch (and occasional intervention) of the government. As a background information resource, we have procured and translated the official government statement concerning the monitoring of digital video work in China, issued in 2004, and referred to whenever a party is prosecuted for making, distributing or exhibiting illegal films in China.

Notice on Strengthening DV Management in Theater, Television and on the Internet” was officially issued on May 24th, 2004 by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. The following is a translation of its main part:

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