Posts Tagged ‘chinese documentary’

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.”


New Book on the New Chinese Documentary Movement

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
By Isabella Tianzi Cai

The New Chinese Documentary Film Movement: For the Public Record (authors Chris Berry, Lu Xinyu, Lisa Rofel)

A new book by three eminent China scholars is out – The New Chinese Documentary Film Movement: For the Public Record edited by Chris Berry, Lu Xinyu, and Lisa Rofel. Peter Monaghan has a full report for Moving Image Archive News.

Rofel, Professor of Anthropology from the University of California Santa Cruz, and Berry, film professor from the University of London, first received a grant from the University of California’s Pacific Rim Research Program to do research on independent Chinese documentaries in 2003. Back then (and as still is the case), the state film archive of China, China Film Archive/China Film Art Research Institute, did not bother building a collection of independent Chinese documentaries. In order to get their hands on these undocumented works, the two professors relied entirely on the close-knit community of independent filmmakers and a few film enthusiasts for second-hand copies.


“The Power of Committed and Honest Cinema.” New York Times Reviews Petition and Crime and Punishment

Friday, January 14th, 2011

This week on dGenerate we will be featuring articles related to Zhao Liang’s acclaimed documentary Crime and Punishment to coincide with the screening of his films at Anthology Film Archives in New York City. Click here for more information on the screenings.

Petition (dir. Zhao Liang)

A.O. Scott reviews Petition and Crime and Punishment in the New York Times.

The right of the people to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” as the First Amendment to the United States Constitution phrases it, would seem to be a basic feature of the relationship between citizen and state. Even nondemocratic systems acknowledge the principle that the rulers should listen to the complaints of the ruled. Zhao Liang‘s “Petition,” a brave and wrenching new documentary from China, takes a bottom-up view of the cruel and absurd ways that lofty ideal is put into practice on the streets of Beijing.

Mr. Zhao’s camera is a stubborn, patient witness to some shocking scenes of bullying and intimidation, and he also offers a sympathetic ear to the ordinary people whose government hardly seems to care. “Petition” is an anthology of Kafkaesque anecdotes, most of them fragmentary, but what gives it shape and almost unbearable dramatic weight are the handful of stories the director pursues in detail.

“Petition” opens on Friday at the Anthology Film Archives, which is also presenting Mr. Zhao’s earlier feature, “Crime and Punishment.” That film, about the day-to-day work of military police officers, takes place far from Beijing, but its fine-grained insights into the workings of state power complement and complicate those seen in “Petition…” Together they offer eye-opening testimony both to the rigors of life in contemporary China and to the power of committed and honest cinema.

Read the full review.

“Stunning:” Crime and Punishment Reviewed by Variety

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

This week on dGenerate we will be featuring articles related to Zhao Liang’s acclaimed documentary Crime and Punishment to coincide with the screening of his films at Anthology Film Archives in New York City. Click here for more information on the screenings.

Crime and Punishment (dir. Zhao Liang)

This rave by Robert Koehler in Variety was one of the key reviews that drove us to pursue Crime and Punishment and eventually distribute it as part of the dGenerate catalog. Reading it, you can see why. Better yet, see the film at Anthology Film Archives during its run!

Here are some choice excerpts. The full review can be accessed at Variety.


By Robert Koehler

In his stunning “Crime and Punishment,” documentary filmmaker Zhao Liang upturns the common perception that Chinese media and artists have little or no access to corridors of the military and law enforcement. At the same time, Zhao reveals a community hugging the border with North Korea where lawbreaking and extreme poverty go hand-in-hand. Rigorously observational and sometimes quite amusing when it isn’t shocking, pic further cements China’s position as a doc powerhouse, and should spark tube and cable sales in most major markets.


Profile on Current State of Chinese documentaries

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Karamay (dir. Xu Xin)

Taiwan News has a highly informative article by Yali Chen comparing documentary production and distribution in Taiwan and China. The article reports on a couple of documentary exhibition and promotion events that take place in Taipei in the fall: the Golden Horse Awards (where the Taiwanese doc Hip Hop Storm took the best documentary prize) and the CNEX Chinese Doc Forum (CCDF) where NT $300,000 are awarded to Chinese documentary projects in development (this year’s winner is Shen Ko-shang for Double Happiness Limited: The Crazy Chinese Wedding Industry).

CNEX CEO Ben Tsiang explained the mission of the CCDF in helping Chinese documentary filmmakers develop their skills in accessing the funding resources and audiences of the global marketplace. “It’s hard for Chinese-language documentaries to penetrate the global market due to the language barrier and Chinese filmmakers’ unfamiliarity with the rules of an international pitching session.”

Chinese documentary filmmaker and distributor Tammy Cheung makes a direct comparison between Taiwanese and Chinese documentaries in terms of their shooting style, subject matter and regard for a mainstream audience:

“In terms of subjects, shooting styles and editing skills, Taiwan’s films seem similar because most filmmakers like touching, personal stories with a pinch of softness,” Hong Kong-based director Tammy Cheung said, “Taiwanese filmmakers care more about what their audiences like.”

“Chinese documentaries look very different because they have a touch of aggressiveness and center around serious social issues such as legal reforms, the gap between the city and countryside, plus human rights of Tibetans and migrant workers.”

Zhu Rikun, Curator of the Beijing Independent Documentary Festival, adds, “Chinese independent nonfiction filmmakers care more about political and social issues.” Exemplary mainland documentaries mentioned include Xu Xin’s Karamay, Du Haibin’s 1428 (available through dGenerate Films), and Petition by Zhao Liang (whose Crime and Punishment is distributed by dGenerate).

Read the full article.

Chinese Documentaries Available for Free Viewing

Friday, June 25th, 2010

In May and June 2010, IDFA is traveling though China, where the festival is presenting several documentary programs in Beijing and Shanghai. The journey started on Thursday 13 May at the World Expo 2010 in the Dutch Culture Centre in Shanghai. To mark this special occasion, IDFA TV has released several festival favorites from and about China online for free.

At the moment, the following films are available online at IDFA TV:

Readymade (Zhang Bingjian, China, 2008, 81 mins)
Mao Zedong, the major founder and leader of the People’s Republic and Communist Party of China, died 32 years ago. This is a documentary about two ordinary individuals who have a physical likeness to Mao and choose to be his impersonators. As a result, their life and destiny have changed ever since.

Jade Green Station (Yu Jian, China, 2003)
In very little time, the sleepy village of Bise in China became a lively meeting place after the construction of a railroad there.
Jade Green Station screened at IDFA 2004 in the IDFA Competition for First Appearance.

Feet Unbound (Khee-Jin Ng, Australia, 2006, 107 mins)
Seventy years later, women who survived the Long March of the Red Army tell their stories. Meanwhile, a Chinese journalist follows the same route on a voyage of discovery all her own.
Feet Unbound had its world premiere at IDFA 2006 and was selected for the Joris Ivens competition.

In the following weeks, more films from and about China will be added to the IDFA TV program.

BACKGROUND: Documentary culture in China
Documentary makers in China have a level of freedom that the makers of fiction films can only envy. The advent of the small, digital video camera means that Chinese documentary filmmakers are less and less dependent on government financing.

Since the beginning of this century, a growing number of independent Chinese filmmakers have embraced the opportunities offered by video. Sociologists and other university researchers, people who originally had little to do with moving images, have also discovered the medium. This represents a real democratisation of documentary.

Along with independent filmmakers, many large and small independent production companies have emerged. China’s more than two hundred regional television broadcasters play a major role in commissioning and buying documentaries that would not readily be broadcast by national stations, partly out of fear of attracting too much attention from the censors.

Does the Chinese government mind that more and more documentaries are being made of the country’s less attractive aspects? Not always. Documentaries about the harshness of the agrarian way of life, about the difficulty of organising local elections and about local problems can help generate discussions of issues that the local authorities may otherwise prefer to sweep under the carpet. This motivates local television stations to grant commissions for documentaries that highlight local issues, as a form of democratic control that would otherwise be very difficult to achieve.

Documentaries from China are often strikingly intimate. Their disarming genuineness and openness allow us to empathise with the main characters. At such moments, as (Western) viewers we do not feel so far removed from the Chinese, however different their world may seem.

This article is an abbreviated version of the introduction written by Garrie van Pinxteren in 2006 for the festival program China Transit. Garrie van Pinxteren was correspondent for NRC Handelsblad in China from 2001-2006.

Hong Kong Chinese Documentary Festival – Full Lineup

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Mouthpiece (dir. Guo Xizhi)

Chinese Documentary Festival 2010
June 6-July 4, 2010

This year, the Chinese Documentary Festival presents thirteen films of high quality and with various themes. The topics include: environmental protection, gender issues, the sex life of the elderly, a portrait of a TV station, the life of a private detective and the history of Chinese theatres in San Francisco. These remarkable films reflect the ever-changing conditions of the Chinese diaspora.

All screenings will be held at the agnes b. Cinema at the Hong Kong Arts Centre. Visit the HKAC website for details.

Program listing follows.


Zhao Dayong Interview on Hammer to Nail!

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Hammer to Nail, a pioneering online journal about ambitious films, has just published Ghost Town director Zhao Dayong’s interview with Nelson Kim, two days after the New York Film Festival screening.

In the conversation, Zhao discussed the situation of independent filmmaking in China, his experiences in painting, installation, and performance art and their influence on his later choice in filmmaking, as well as his recent project about the underground Nigerian Christian community in Guangzhou.

Concerning the three-part structure of the film, Zhao insisted that the film was less a quote unquote documentary than a reflection of his experience living in the community, presented from a “clear, subjective concept” of him. Zhao also expressed his wish for Chinese independent filmmakers to “be persistent, to insist on making good quality films.”

The complete interview can be accessed here.

Queer China: Mainland China’s First Gay Pride Event

Friday, June 12th, 2009

ShanghaiPRIDE WeekJune 7 saw the launch of China’s first gay pride event, ShanghaiPRIDE, which includes club events, film screenings, art shows and panel discussions on the issue of homosexuality. It is the largest festival of LGBT communities in mainland China to date. On June 10, China Daily praised the event as a “showcase of the country’s social progress alongside the three decades of economic boom” and “an event of profound significance”. However, later that day, BBC News reported a government ban on a play and a film screening, which proves that homosexuality is still a complicated and controversial issue in China, although with more tolerance than before.