Posts Tagged ‘chinese independent cinema’

CinemaTalk: Interview with Li Ning, Director of Tape

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Li Ning, director of Tape

Tape, a highly experimental documentary by performance artist, dancer and filmmaker Li Ning, made its European premiere last January at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. Since then it has screened at the MoMA Documentary Fortnight and won the Silver Award at the Yunnan Multicultural Visual Exhibitions, aka YunFest. The film makes its West Coast premiere at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts this Thursday April 7 as part of the series “Fearless: Chinese Independent Documentaries.”

The dGenerate catalog describes Tape as follows:

For five grueling years, Li Ning documents his struggle to achieve success as an avant-garde artist while contending with the pressures of modern life in China. He is caught between two families: his wife, son and mother, whom he can barely support; and his enthusiastic but disorganized guerilla dance troupe. Tape shatters documentary conventions, utilizing a variety of approaches, including guerilla documentary, experimental street video, even CGI.

dGenerate’s Kevin B. Lee interviewed Li Ning at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. The following is a transcript of the interview. Translation by Amy Yiran Xu and Isabella Tianzi Cai.

dGF: You were originally a dancer, sculptor and performance artist for many years. How did you begin to make videos? Tape was originally a dance performance piece. At what time did you decide to make Tape as a video?

Li Ning: It began in 2000. I owned a DV camera then. I used it to document my performances, with my troupe, and also our training. It started simple, and I didn’t expect myself to make a documentary. Kevin knows this, I feel strongly about Jinan. I have been seeing certain scenery and objects there for over 30 years. They have left a mark in my heart and in my head. I used this crappy camera and made my first film. It was an amateurish film, which was completed 10 years ago and lasted a little over 40 minutes. In my opinion, it was closely related to Tape. And at a deeper level it shares the same things with those in Tape, such as our human condition, our changing cityscape, the choices that each human being faces.

dGF: This concept of “tape,” how did you come up with the idea of it?


MUBI Notebook on Chinese Indie Cinema; Fortune Teller Named Best of Vancouver Film Fest

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Fortune Teller (dir. Xu Tong)

Over at the MUBI Notebook, one of the leading sites for writing on cinema, editor Daniel Kasman offers his report on the 2010 Vancouver International Film Festival, in which he names Xu Tong’s independent documentary Fortune Teller “the best film I saw this year at VIFF.” Fortune Teller was a prize-winner at the 2010 Beijing Independent Documentary Festival, but has yet to premiere in the United States, a fact that we are working to rectify within the near future. Read critic and VIFF programmer Shelly Kraicer’s description of the film, expanded from the VIFF Dragons and Tigers program notes.

Kasman’s report opens into an extended meditation on the historical significance of the current Chinese independent cinema, comparing it to the classic Hollywood productions of the 1930s. Most of his reflections on the topic are reproduced below:


“The similarity I see between, say, an American film from the 1930s and a independent Chinese film from 2010, like Fortune Teller, a documentary that was the best film I saw this year at VIFF, is the understanding of filmmakers-producers that one’s country has a significant population, a population whose stories should be told and to whom stories about that population should be told.


CIFF Awards Announced; Zhang Xianmin Interviewed

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Poster for The Old Donkey (dir. Li Ruijun)

The Seventh China Independent Film Festival concluded in Nanjing on October 25, with awards given to the following narrative feature films:

First Prize: The Old Donkey, dir. Li Ruijun
Second Prize: Rivers and My Father, dir. Li Luo
Debut Prize: Piercing, dir. Liu Jian

Special Mentions:
Single Man, dir. Hao Jie
Cleaning, dir. Yuan Fei

Additionally, the following films were screened as part of the CIFF Top 10 Documentaries program:

Xue Jianqiang: Martian Syndrome
Zhang Zanbo: A Song of Love, Maybe
Qiu Jiongjiong: Madame
Mao Chenyu: Triumph of the Will
Guo Xiaolu: Once Upon a Time Proletarian
Chen Xinzhong: Zhong Sheng
Wang Qingren: Game Theory
Yang Yishu: On the Road
Zhou Hao: Cop Shop
Li Ning: Tape

CIFF organizer (and dGenerate consultant) Zhang Xianmin discusses the Festival with Christen Cornell for Artspace China.

Chinese Avant-garde Shills for Prada: Is This the Future of Indie Filmmaking?

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Wee Ling Soh of the Shanghaist tipped us to “First Spring,” a nine minute video directed by avant garde filmmaker Yang Fudong (Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest) as an artsy promotional tie-in for Prada. Video after the break.


Shelly on Film: Pushing Beyond Indie Conventions

Monday, October 12th, 2009
by Shelly Kraicer
Betelnut  (dir. Yang Heng)

Betelnut (dir. Yang Heng)

Perhaps I’ve been spending just a bit too much time watching movies in China? I have this recurring daydream, most often when I’m watching a new Chinese film that some enterprising young director has sent me. I always watch every independent film that I receive. You never know what gems might appear unsolicited in the mail. And, even if the film isn’t so terrific, it will still be a useful index of all sorts of interesting trends: it might reveal what young filmmakers in China are filming, how they are looking at the world around them, or, at least, what they think people like me want to see.

The daydream, or perhaps it’s a fantasy, is this. There exists, down some dusty grey hutong alleyway of Beijing, a Chinese Indie Director’s Discount Emporium. You want to make a film? Step right in and assemble your movie at bargain prices. The shelving on the left is stocked with cast members: long-haired village boys, out of school, drifting aimlessly. At the back is a set of grainy, dusty, brown-grey village-scapes, ready to be populated by said drifters. To the right, useful equipment. Some tripods, but with a restriction: they must be set up at least 50 metres from the subjects being filmed. Right beside is a very long long shelf, holding 3 minute, 10 minute, even 20 minute-long takes, offered for a steal at family-sized package prices. Alternatively, you could go for deep discount on little DV cams, with the proviso that, held close to the subjects, they be shaken as vigorously as possible. The dialogue shelves in the centre are threadbare: screenplays for rent are all dialogue-light. And, off in a corner, is a shelf labelled “Prostitutes”. It’s over-loaded, with a three-for-the-price-of-one sale.

This may seem a bit mean. But the people I’m making fun of here, in fact, are international film programmers like me (I select Chinese language films for the Vancouver International Film Festival), not the filmmakers themselves. It seems that many of us (my colleagues from other film festivals, and wouldn’t exclude myself) sometimes seem to select films armed with a checklist of “East Asian art film attributes”, the things that populate the shelves of our hutong indie shop. Who can blame a young director from China, who, with little or no chance of gaining any return on his or her investment within his own country, tries to design a film to suit those foreigners who pay the bills, fund post production, and just might offer an overseas distribution deal?


6th Annual China Independent Film Festival Lineup

Friday, October 9th, 2009

The Sixth China Independent Film Festival (CIFF) will be held in Nanjing from October 12-16th, 2009. Here’s a listing of their screening programs. Screenings are held in the Nanjing Visual Art College and Nanjing Art University.

In addition there will be other discussions and presentations on Chinese independent cinema (including one by yours truly on behalf of dGenerate); there’s even a “Young Movie Critics” training course on tap.

Yang Jins Er Dong, a dGenerate Films catalog title, is among the titles participating in the Feature Film Competition. Other dGenerate directors who have films in the festival are Ying Liang (Good Cats) and Zhao Dayong (Rough Poetry).

Shelly Kraicer profiled the CIFF on his virtual tour of the Chinese independent film circuit. He wrote, “the festival cultivates a real sense of intellectual energy and ferment.”

Main program of films follows after the break.


Tony Rayns praises Chinese Indies at the Vancouver Film Festival

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

In Joanne Lee-Young’s article for the Vancouver Sun, longtime Asian film programmer and critic Tony Rayns spotlights some of his favorite films in this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival Dragons & Tigers Program of Asian cinema. Our own blog contributor Shelly Kraicer programmed the Chinese titles in the series, some of which are mentioned below:

Rayns: “In the last 10 years or so… nearly all of the creative energy in [mainland] Chinese cinema has come from the independent sector, from kids working outside the film industry.”

This means that when there is an event, like the devastating Sichuan earthquake last year, filmmakers like Du Haibin, “who has always been drawn to the marginal, the dispossessed and people who are socially at the bottom of the ladder,” said Rayns, rush off to film those events.


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:


Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Richard Peña on Chinese Independent Cinema

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Courtesy of Film Society of Lincoln CenterIn anticipation of this weekend’s series On the Edge: New Independent Cinema from China (April 24–27) at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, we spoke with the Film Society’s Program Director Richard Pena about series’ films and gathered his impressions on Chinese independent cinema today.

You can listen to this 15 minute interview by clicking the .mp3 link below:

Listen to Richard Pena on Chinese Independent Cinema