Posts Tagged ‘cui zi’en’

School Shutdowns Take Aim at China’s Migrant Worker Children

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

Shut out of school, migrant children study on the street in Cui Zi'en's "We Are the... of Communism"

Recently, both The New York Times and The Economist reported on the sudden closing down of dozens of unlicensed schools for migrant children on safety grounds in Beijing. This round of forced closures has been the largest in scale since a similar campaign to demolish migrants’ schools in Beijing in 2006, which was regarded and criticized for making way for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. How do such government ordinances affect the teachers and children whose work and education face abrupt termination? Cui Zi’en‘s documentary We are the . . . of Communism (2006), which follows a group of pupils and their teachers from Yuanhai Elementary School of Beijing in the aftermath of its shutdown, offers some clues to begin thinking about this matter.

(2006), which follows a group of pupils and their teachers from Yuanhai Elementary School of Beijing in the aftermath of its shutdown, offers some clues to begin thinking about this matter.

Micro-Dispatches from Film Directors on Weibo, China’s Twitter

Monday, September 26th, 2011

A number of film directors whose titles we distribute have accounts on Weibo, the Chinese microblog comparable to Twitter. We looked through these accounts for interesting messages. The following were compiled by Yuqian Yan.

Ou Ning (director of Meishi Street and San Yuan Li):

9/11 Berenice Reynaud curated the Thematic Retrospective – Digital Shadows: Last Generation Chinese Film for San Sebastian International Film Festival. It will screen 20 films, including Meishi Street. (9/18-9/19, two screenings).

9/11 The press conference for 2011 Chengdu Biennial will be held tomorrow. I’m speechless after I got this notice, “According to the official requirement of the government press conference, please wear light-color, short-sleeve shirt with a tie.” There’s still enough time to buy a light-color, short-sleeve shirt, but no one has ever taught me how to wear a tie …

Zhao Liang (director of Crime and Punishment):

9/13 F***, Money can do everything! (commenting on “the Most Beautiful Moon of the Mid-Autumn Festival)


Ai Weiwei on Beijing, a “Nightmare” of a City

Friday, September 9th, 2011

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

The Olympic Stadium in Beijing, designed by Ai Weiwei in the city he now calls "a nightmare"

In his essay posted on The Daily Beast on August 28, 2010, artist Ai Weiwei rants about Beijing being a nightmarish city for anyone to live in. He says that the rapid economic progress of China has ironically made its capital unrecognizable and its people identity-less, and the country’s political rigidity has only worsened these problems.

In a depressing overview of the people living in Beijing, Ai sorts them into one of the two categories. One, he says, are the money-grabbers and power-worshippers who are distressingly predictable. “You don’t want to look at a person walking past because you know exactly what’s on his mind.” Frustrated, he goes on. “No curiosity. And no one will even argue with you.” The other category, which refers to the mass middle to low wage earners in the city, sounds just as pitiful. “I see people on public buses, and I see their eyes, and I see they hold no hope,” Ai observes.

The Other Side of the Chinese Student Success Story: We Are the… of Communism

Monday, December 20th, 2010

We Are the... of Communism (dir. Cui Zi'en)

By Ariella Tai

Earlier this month a study conducted by the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, showed Shanghai students placing first in the world, far outscoring the United States. The New York Times article reporting on these “surprising” test scores posits that a stronger “culture of education” is responsible for the stellar performance of Shanghai 15 year-olds, as well as raising anxieties that students in the United States are lagging academically. Collective investment in China’s reputation as reflected by the test scores, as well as an “amazingly strong” work ethic are also attributed to the high scores. Mark Schneider, commissioner of the Department of Education under the Bush Administration, suggests that the government may be allowing especially talented high school students to study in Shanghai instead of their home provinces in order to boost city performance on such exams.


“Genuinely Fascinating:” Queer China, ‘Comrade’ China reviewed at Video Librarian

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Queer China, 'Comrade' China (dir. Cui Zi'en)

The current issue of Video Librarian includes a review of one of our hottest titles, Cui Zi’en’s Queer China, ‘Comrade China’. Here’s an excerpt from the review:

Openly gay filmmaker Cui Zi’en helmed this chronicle of the changes and developments in the LGBT community in China from the 1930s through the early years of the 21st century. China was relatively late in openly acknowledging basic civil rights for its homosexual population; in fact, the Communist goverment didn’t decriminalize “hooliganism,” as it was officially known, until 1997, and the acceptance of non-heterosexuals into mainstream Chinese society has been awkward… Queer China, ‘Comrade’ China includes frank interviews with more than three dozen scholars, activists, filmmakers, and writers, combined with rarely seen footage of the first-ever appearance of gays and lesbians on state television… This is a genuinely fascinating look at a continually evolving segment of Chinese society. Recommended.
The full review can be accessed at the Video Librarian website (registration required)

Changing Times for Queer Lives in China

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Lesbian wedding in China (Photo from

by Isabella Tianzi Cai

In a “Letter from China” column for the New York Times on September 1, 2010, Howard W. French elaborates on China’s changing attitude towards queer culture based on his personal observations in Shanghai. Having worked and lived in Shanghai for just under a decade, French is well aware of Chinese people’s increasing psychological tolerance towards homosexuals in their midst.

French says that it is most evident in “public intimacy between women,” which he supports in the letter by recounting a few of his personal experiences, most memorably, witnessing two teenage girls kissing passionately in a Shanghai subway car, without regard for the older passengers watching them with consternation. It should be noted that this incident is without precedent; a similar event in 2008 was captured on video and created a stir when posted on the internet.

French offers his understanding of this social phenomenon:

As this society rapidly grows richer, its social fabric and mores have been changing in ways far more dramatic than even the physical landscape, and sexual choice and expression are arguably in the leading edge of this upheaval.

Although this trend, as articulated by French, is more or less inevitable, the transition from a conservative society to a liberal one is neither as easy or as fast as he makes it out to be.


Video: Queer China, ‘Comrade China’ Panel Discussion at Cinemasie Festival

Monday, June 28th, 2010

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

At CinemAsia Film Festival in Amsterdam this year, Chinese queer activist, writer, and filmmaker Cui Zi’en’s Queer China, ‘Comrade’ China was selected for an official screening followed by a panel discussion titled “Queer Asian Imagination.” The film was grouped with eight other LGBT films in the Queer and Asia program, a key component of CinemAsia. Cui met with the program attendees after the film and answered their inquiries about LGBT culture in China. Below are some YouTube videos documenting the Q&A session with Cui. Also present at the discussion were Michiel Baas from the International Institute for Asian Studies, Hong Kong filmmaker Kit Hung, CinemAsia board member Jeroen de Kloet, as well as Yang Jin, who appears in the film. In the videos below, Cui’s answers in Chinese are omitted, but were spoken in English by a translator (seen in the orange shirt).

Cui points out one major difference distinguishing Chinese gay population from that elsewhere in the world. “Many young Chinese gay and lesbians, they also go to gay bars,” he says. “But one difference is in China, they also aspire to get married as heterosexuals. I think that’s one of the biggest difference.”

Cui also notes the tension between the state and gay cinema in China today. He says, “The law environment in China is very different in terms of filmmaking. There are thirteen prohibitions in China in terms of movie-making. One of them is that you are not allowed to make a gay-themed film. That’s why you can’t see gay-related films in mainstream cinemas or film festivals. Even a Hollywood movie like Brokeback Mountain, when they tried to enter the Chinese market, it was impossible.”

Part One:

More after the break.

Berenice Reynaud Reviews Four New Chinese Films

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Queer China, 'Comrade China' (dir. Cui Zi'en)

The newest issue of the online film journal Senses of Cinema features lengthy reviews by film scholar and Cal Arts professor Berenice Reynaud on new films from Mainland China. Titled “Men Won’t Cry – Traces of a Repressive Past,” Reynaud covers a dozen international titles that screened at last fall’s Vancouver International Film Festival, giving special attention to four new films from the Mainland, as well as the Hong Kong feature Night and Fog by Ann Hui. Her analysis is particularly astute at discerning issues of identity, gender, power and nationhood in the formal approaches taken by each film. The following are some choice excerpts, though readers are advised to read Reynaud’s appreciations in full:


CinemaTalk: Cui Zi’en at the Beijing Apple Store

Monday, April 12th, 2010

This is the first of three interviews produced from the “Meet the Filmmakers” series held in Feburary 2010 at the Apple Store in Sanlitun, Beijing. The series, co-presented by the Apple Store and dGenerate Films, is an ongoing series to showcase China’s newest filmmakers powered by digital technology.

Cui Zi'en, director of Queer China, 'Comrade China', speaks at the Apple store in Beijing. (Photo: Robert Douglas)

Cui Zi’en is a director, film scholar, screenwriter, and novelist based in Beijing. He is an associate professor at the Beijing Film Academy. Cui Zi’en is a premiere avant-garde digital filmmaker in China. He has published nine novels in China and Hong Kong, and he is also the author of books on criticism and theory, as well as a columnist for magazines.

dGenerate Films distributes three of Cui Zi’en’s features in its catalog: Queer China, ‘Comrade China‘, Enter the Clowns, and We Are the… of Communism (coming soon).

The video of Cui’s interview is in four parts, with an English transcript following each video. Video of Part One is below. Click through to view both videos and the full transcript.

Note: English subtitles for each video can be accessed by clicking on the CC button in the pop-up menu on the bottom right corner of the player.


Press on Beijing Apple Store Events with dGenerate Filmmakers

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Cui Zi'en, director of Queer China, Comrade China, speaks at the Apple store in Beijing. (Photo: Robert Douglas)

Following up on our recent “Meet the Filmmakers” series at the Apple Store in Sanlitun, Beijing, here are a couple of links to local coverage of the events.

At The Beijinger, Dan Edwards talks to Karin Chien about the Apple Store events and China’s digital filmmaking revolution.

At the Global Times, Robert Powers reports on Apple Store appearances made by filmmakers Jian Yi and Cui Zi’en.

We’re pleased to announce that the “Meet the Filmmakers” series will continue with other filmmakers appearing at the Apple Store Sanlitun over the coming months. Stay tuned for details.