Posts Tagged ‘china’

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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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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Beijing Besieged by Waste Reviewed in Senses of Cinema

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

In the online journal Senses of Cinema, Christen Cornell reviews the environmental documentary Beijing Besieged by Waste (directed by Wang Jiuliang) which will screen this weekend at the Melbourne International Film Festival, as part of “Street Level Visions“, a series of contemporary Chinese independent documentaries.

Excerpts from Cornell’s review:

Like many of China’s independent documentary films, the making of Beijing Besieged by Waste was itself a form of political activism, and in a country where such research can be dangerous. Wang used satellite images from Google Earth to look for signs of landfill sites, racked up 17000 kilometres on his motorbike following garbage trucks around Beijing, and kept a deliberate low-profile throughout his investigations. With each new discovery, Wang added a yellow dot to his map of Beijing and, in the end, had identified more than 460 landfills and tips situated around the outskirts of the city – a rim of consumer refuse surrounding this glittering international metropolis like a scum ring in a bath. Wang also lived on and off with the communities he was documenting, learning about their lives at ground level, interviewing them, and capturing their relationships on film.

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Shelly on Film: Fall Festival Report, Part Two: Under Safe Cover, a Fierce Debate

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

By Shelly Kraicer

Shu Haolun's "No. 89 Shimen Road" won the top prize at CIFF, but wasn't shown on Awards Night.

The Nanjing-based China Independent Film Festival (28 October-1 November 2011), unlike the Beijing Independent Film Festival described previously, benefited from a substantial degree of official and semi-official “cover”. Unlike BIFF, there is a certain amount of practical compromise with official bodies and officially approved cinema: purity isn’t such an issue. Co-sponsors include the Nanjing University School of Journalism and Communication, The Communication University of China (Nanjing) and the RCM Museum of Modern Art. The second day of CIFF includes a forum attended by local propaganda department officials. A sidebar of the festival (nicknamed the “Longbiao Section” for the dragon-headed insignia that appears at the beginning of all officially approved film prints in China) included screenings in a luxurious commercial cinema of several films that that are strictly speaking non-independent (i.e. censor-approved) but are made in a spirit of independence. These films would not appear at BIFF, for example, but might show later in official venues like Beijing’s Broadway Cinematheque MOMA, where approved “arthouse cinema” (i.e. non-commercial) finds a refuge in Beijing.

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Chinese-language films screening at UT Austin

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

The Department of Radio-Film-Television and the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin present:

Contemporary Chinese-Language Cinema, Nov 9-13, 2011

with Peggy Hsiung-ping Chiao, distinguished Taiwanese scholar and film producer, alumna and recipient of the 2011-12 William Randolph Hearst Fellow Award from the College of Communication, The University of Texas at Austin

Public Lecture: Chinese-Language Cinema – The New Image
Nov 11 (Fri) 3:30 p.m. – 5 p.m. Legends Room, the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center

Award Ceremony will be held at the end of the lecture and followed by the reception

Master Class: Filmmaking in China: From Art Cinema to Commercial Production
Nov 10 (Thur) 3:30 p.m. – 5 p.m. CMA 4.128

Public Screenings of Films Produced by Peggy Chiao

Buddha Mountain Nov 9 (Wed) 7:30 p.m. CMB Studio 4D (CMB 4.122)
Beijing Bicycle Nov 10 (Thur) 7:30 p.m. ART 1.102

Taiwan Cinema of the 2000s In Celebration of the Founding of the Taiwan Academy

Reception
Nov 11 (Fri) 5 p.m. -7:30 p.m. Legends Room, the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center

Public Screenings of Films Made in Taiwan

7:30 p.m. CMB Studio 4D (CMB 4.122)
Hear Me Nov 11 (Fri)
Blue Gate Crossing Nov 12 (Sat)
Yang Yang Nov 13 (Sun)

Please see the websites below for more details:

http://rtf.utexas.edu/events/contemporary-chinese-language-cinema

http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/eastasia/events/19939

Online Videos and Communities Confront Social Disorder in China

Monday, October 31st, 2011

By Maya E. Rudolph

"Disorder" compiles numerous videos capturing social disharmony in China


In an age where surveillance videos serve as a kind of documentary and internet gossip supercedes mainstream news cycles, the idea of tragedy is spun into a new place and time.

Several weeks ago, a surveillance camera in Foshan’s Guangfo Hardware Market captured an incident wherein a small van ran over a two-year-old child left roaming alone in the market. The footage, now viewed by millions on youku and other video-sharing sites, has incited a national uproar and, for many Chinese, something of an identity crisis. The video not only graphically documents the gruesome hit and run, but the footage also reveals the apparent apathy of numerous passersby subsequently ignoring the injured child on the ground. After being hit, two-year-old Yue Yue lay as the passed-over object of little pause by eighteen workers, shoppers, a mother and child, and an additional truck that crushed her feet. Not until a trash-collecting ayi encountered the child was help sought and Yue Yue rushed to a local hospital, where her condition is unknown.

The video’s stark presentation of the hit and run and ensuing parade of indifference is shocking to behold and has now inspired outrage and questioning – of both social responsibility and of an existential, moral depth – on the part of Chinese netizens and beyond. On one hand, the hit and run has unleashed a debate on the ethical fabric of Chinese society, a kind of national “soul-searching” that begs at the emotional “numbing” of Chinese citizens. But the practical concerns of involving oneself in such a loaded situation have also surfaced in defense of the passersby. The threat of court corruption, false accusations, and complicated legal procedures may have deterred those who declined to help the child. In a recent article for The Guardian, Tania Branigan cites a netizen who admitted he’d not have offered assistance if given the opportunity, his pragmatism outweighing popular reactions of pathos and horror:

“Would you be willing to throw your entire family’s savings into the endless whirlpool of accident compensation? Aren’t you afraid of being put into jail as the perpetrator? Have you ever considered that your whole family could lose happiness only because you wanted to be a great soul?’” he wrote.

In the film Disorder, Huang Weikai’s 2009 digital documentary collage, the action splices in and out of crime and punishment, malaise and passion in contemporary Guangzhou. (more…)

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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Review: The Transition Period shows the true power center of Chinese government

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

"The Transition Period" shows the inner workings of local politics in China

U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke’s recent arrival in Beijing generated intense discussions among Chinese nationals about how Chinese civil servants compare unfavorably to their American counterparts. As reported in a September 20th article in The Wall Street Journal’s blog “China Real Time Report,” the central government and its affiliated media bodies such as the Guangming Daily and the Xinhua News Agency tried to cast aspersions over the political motives behind the U.S. government’s choice of a Chinese-American ambassador. But Chinese online netizens focused on something entirely different. After seeing photos of Locke buying his own coffee and carrying his own bags, and learning that he flew coach to China, Chinese web commentators assailed their civil servants for squandering taxpayers’ money on ridiculously extravagant meals, cars, and the like, and for shirking physical work and other chores that they consider to be below their dignity.

Zhou Hao’s 2011 documentary The Transition Period, which will be playing next Monday in Chicago’s Doc Films series on Chinese independent cinema, looks at the working life of one typical Chinese civil servant by the name of Guo Yongchang before his transfer to a new post within the Chinese government. Shot over the last three months of Guo working as the party secretary of the Committee of the Communist Party of Gushi County in Xinyang Municipality of Henan Province, this documentary presents different facets of Guo’s work as a medium- to low-level Chinese civil servant in a leading position. This article aims at laying out some groundwork in China’s political system and its political environment for first-time viewers of the documentary, as sometimes the stories in the documentary are more complicated than their presentations. (Spoilers may follow.)

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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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Thinking Differently on Steve Jobs’ Legacy: the Struggle of Chinese Labor Reform

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

By Maya Eva Gunst Rudolph

Assembly line workers at Foxconn manufacturing facility subcontracted to Apple (photo: Kotaku)

A man, a plan, an empire: the death of a CEO can signify so much. Honorific accounts of the late Steve Jobs have been in no short supply since the Wizard of Apple’s passing last week. A tech developer and designer of the highest order, Job’s passing leaves a legacy of stunning innovation amid a complex corporate structure and a few harder-edged questions about what it truly means to change the world.

Among the litany of Jobs tributes, it might have been easy to miss Mike Daisey’s critical appraisal of Jobs’ legacy in The New York Times. While acknowledging Jobs as a genius possessed of a “brutal honesty,” Daisey addresses the often-overshadowed underpinning of the Apple operation, such as the crowds of young Chinese migrants whose tireless, anonymous work built iPhones and MacBooks in factories throughout southern China. Referencing the 2010 spike in suicides at Shenzhen’s Foxconn factory, a manufacturer of popular products by Apple, Dell, and Sony, Daisey addresses Apple’s recent history in the now infamous manufacturing region:

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