Posts Tagged ‘chinese independent film’

“What Else Can We Do?” Personal Responses to Karamay

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

By Kevin B. Lee

Karamay (dir. Xu Xin)

Xu Xin’s devastating epic documentary Karamay is set to make its San Francisco premiere this Sunday at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. (Details here). In advance of the screening, I looked back at footage from a discussion held after the film’s New York premiere at the MoMA Documentary Fortnight last month, with director Xu Xin and producer Zhu Rikun both present. Going into the event, I wondered how a local U.S. audience would respond to a six-hour Chinese documentary, and I was especially curious to see how many would stick around for a Q&A session. By the end of the epic screening, a couple dozen people remained in the audience, and from their words they were clearly moved. In fact, the session was not so much dominated by questions and answers as by a series of intense and highly thoughtful responses from several audience members.

It was particularly interesting to hear the reactions of young overseas Chinese students who watched the film, given the film’s critical subject matter as well as past reports of disturbances at Chinese film screenings caused by nationalistic audience members highly sensitive to unflattering depictions of their homeland. (For a vivid example see Jia Zhangke’s first hand accounts of his recent festival experiences.) In the case of this screening, some Chinese audience members expressed a complex and highly personal response to Xu’s film. One viewer remarked how the film maintains a critical view of Chinese society without catering to Western stereotypes:

“What sets your film apart from other Chinese independent films circulating in the international market is that it does not simply fit into a simplified humanistic or humanitarian rhetoric that most Western viewers impose on China’s situation. We tend to demonize China as such, that their educational system brainwashes people and everyone in China just sits there following the rules without any sense of agency over the experience of their own lives. The very structure of your film, especially the beginning shots that take so long with the close ups of each child, and the six hour length of your film, actually demands the viewer to approach China and contemporary Chinese politics and rethink from a critical point of view, not from a simple humanitarian rhetoric of the West. That’s what I think is the most productive part of your film and I appreciate it.”

Another young viewer had an even more personalized response:


“Alternative Realities:” China’s Digital Documentary Filmmakers

Monday, April 26th, 2010

1428 (dir. Du Haibin)

In the newest issue of RealTime Arts Magazine, there is a rousing article by Dan Edwards on the significance of digital independent filmmaking in China. Here’s the opening passage:

While China’s political system remains deeply authoritarian, the country’s overwhelming size and explosive growth have opened cavernous gaps in the government’s control of culture, through which a new generation of DV-wielding documentary filmmakers has climbed.

Edwards profiles films such as Hu Jie’s In Search of Lin Zhao’s Soul, Ou Ning’s Meishi Street, and Du Haibin’s 1428 (editor: The latter two are distributed by dGenerate Films). He also interviews three notable figures in the contemporary digital filmmaking scene: producer/journalist David Bandurski (Ghost Town), artist/filmmaker Ou Ning and filmmaker/journalist Hu Jie. Here are some choice quotes from each:

Bandurski: “I’ve never heard an independent filmmaker in China ask themselves, ‘Can I do this?… Independent filmmaking is the freest avenue of expression that exists in China today.”

Ou: “Before, history only had one version – by the Chinese Communist Party… Now with digital technology history has different versions.”

Hu: “I knew very little about the history of the 1950s and 60s… While making Lin Zhao I had the sense that I was feeling around in the dark. Then I found the door of history, opened it and walked through. There I found a lot of ridiculous, cruel stories that really shocked me, and that was the motivation to go further.”

Read the complete article at RealTime Arts.

Find out more about Meishi Street, 1428, and Ghost Town.

MEET THE FILMMAKERS: Ying Liang at Apple Store Beijing

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Ying Liang

dGenerate Films and the Apple Store in Beijing continue their ongoing series showcasing China’s newest filmmakers powered by digital technology. This Thursday, April 21, acclaimed digital filmmaker Ying Liang will show clips from his films and discuss his creative process.

Ying Liang’s talk is part of the series “Meet the Filmmakers,” a collaboration between the Apple Store in Beijing and dGenerate Films. Digital tools, from digital video cameras to editing software, have placed filmmaking in the hands of the people. This series introduces award-winning directors discuss with the general public how they use digital technology to create their latest movies, attracting worldwide attention and acclaim.

Read news coverage of the inaugural “Meet the Filmmakers” events, and watch video from a previous Apple Store talk with filmmaker and activist Cui Zi’en.

All events will be held at the Apple Store in Sanlitun, Beijing, starting at 7pm.

Ying Liang graduated from the Department of Directing at the Chongqing Film Academy and Beijing Normal University. He directed his first feature film, Taking Father Home (2005), which won awards at the Tokyo Filmex Film Festival, the Hong Kong International Film Festival, and the San Francisco International Film Festival. In 2006, Ying made The Other Half (2006), which is supported by the Hubert Bals Fund (HBF) from the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The film also won the Special Jury Prize at the Tokyo Filmex Film Festival. Ying Liang’s latest film Good Cats (2008) premiered at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

Highlights from dGenerate Presentation at Swarthmore

Monday, April 19th, 2010

dGenerate's Kevin B. Lee discusses Chinese cinema to students at Swarthmore College

On March 30, 2010, dGenerate Films’ Kevin B. Lee gave a talk to students and faculty at Swarthmore College. The presentation, entitled “From the Fifth Generation to the dGeneration,” gave an introduction to the wave of digital filmmaking currently prevalent in China, and how it emerged as a response to the Fifth and Sixth Generations of Chinese filmmakers. The talk discussed the films within social, historical, cultural and political contexts and introduced several representative films and directors. Lee also touched on issues such as audience responses both at home and abroad, financing and distribution, and censorship.

The talk was followed by a screening of Fujian Blue by Robin Weng. Highlights of the presentation can be viewed in the video below.

dGenerate Films organizes presentations and screenings at colleges, museums and other institutions across the country. For more information, please contact info *at* dgeneratefilms *dot* com.

CinemaTalk: Jia Zhangke in conversation with dGenerate’s Kevin B. Lee

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

dGenerate Films' Kevin B. Lee (right) pays tribute to Jia Zhangke at the Museum of Modern Art

On March 8 the Museum of Modern Art hosted “An Evening with Jia Zhangke,” where the renowned director spoke about his career and shared excerpts of his work, including a four minute preview of “I Wish I Knew,” his new documentary on Shanghai set to premiere later this year. Jia Zhangke’s longtime muse Zhao Tao also addressed the audience about her role in Jia’s films.

The second half of the evening comprised of a conversation between Jia, critic and programmer Howard Feinstein (who programmed a Jia retrospective at last year’s Sarajevo Film Festival), and dGenerate’s Kevin B. Lee. Fortunately we shot video of most of the event, which are embedded below in several segments.

On-stage translation was conducted by Vincent Cheng Tzu-wen. Videos after the break.