Posts Tagged ‘dan edwards’

Street Level Visions: Chinese Independent Docs at the Melbourne International Film Festival

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

“Though I Am Gone” (dir. HU Jie)

We’re proud to announce that “Street Level Visions,” a program of independent Chinese documentaries curated by Dan Edwards, will be screening next month as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival.

The program is a small retrospective of independent works produced in China over the past decade, many of which are distributed by dGenerate. The selection includes key landmarks of Chinese documentary such as Zhao Liang’s Petition (2009) and Hu Jie’s Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul, as well as new and important fare such as Wang Jiuliang’s debut from last year, Beijing Besieged by Waste.

Directors Ou Ning and Wang Jiuliang will be in Melbourne as guests of the festival.

Full program after the break – all screenings at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) on Federation Square unless otherwise indicated:

Radio Profile of Zhao Liang’s Together, Playing at Hong Kong Film Festival

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Together (dir. Zhao Liang)

Chinese Radio International broadcast a segment profiling Zhao Liang’s new documentary Together. The film will screen at the 35th Hong Kong International Film Festival. You can listen to the program here.

Together is a behind-the-scenes documentary of Chinese director Gu Changwei’s upcoming feature film A Tale of Magic (formerly known as Life is a Miracle), which alludes to the discrimination faced by HIV/AIDS patients in China. Zhao documented the interactions of the cast and crew as they came face-to-face with the disease during the production.

Film critic and blogger Dan Edwards discusses the film in the radio program:

“When you talk about HIV in China, it’s very easy to remain at an abstract level and not relate to what this means for individual people on a daily level… but hearing some of these stories about the gross discrimination and isolation that a lot of HIV sufferers face in China would have been quite a revelation.”

Edwards has written extensively and interviewed Zhao about the film. You can read more from him on his blog Screening China.

Watch Zhao Liang answer questions at the international premiere of Together at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Zhao Liang’s acclaimed feature Crime and Punishment is available in the dGenerate catalog.

Who’s Using Who? Zhou Hao’s Hall of Mirrors

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

By Dan Edwards

Using (dir. Zhou Hao)

Southern Metropolis Daily has a proud reputation as one of the very few newspapers in mainland China with real teeth, so it’s perhaps not surprising the paper’s ranks have also produced such sharp-eyed documentarian as Zhou Hao. Zhou’s stories focus on minor, charismatic players in contemporary Chinese society, honing in on small stories to make broader points about various social milieux, from the world of heroin addition in Using (2008) to small town politics in The Transition Period (2009). More intriguingly, Zhou’s films also highlight the uncertain, often fraught relationship between documentary makers and their subjects.


Using opens among a group of emaciated junkies living under a highway overpass, a concrete island home in a sea of traffic. The casual presence of death is immediately apparent as we see Ah Long, a man in his 30s, chatting on the phone with a family member of an ailing addict. “He won’t last long,” Ah Long states bluntly. “I’m saying you should come to see him… You can come and have a last look…”


Zhao Liang’s New AIDS Documentary Screens Next Week at Berlin Film Festival

Thursday, February 10th, 2011
By Isabella Tianzi Cai

Together (dir. Zhao Liang)

Staff reporter Dan Edwards of The Beijinger posted an essay on Zhao Liang’s new documentary Together (2011) in his blog. Together has been officially selected by the 61st Berlin International Film Festival, and will make its European premiere there on Monday, February 14. It is one of the only Chinese films screening in the festival this year. Click here to read Dan Edwards’ review of the film.

Together is a behind-the-scenes documentary of Chinse director Gu Changwei’s upcoming feature film Life is a Miracle (2011), which exposes the discrimination faced by HIV/AIDS patients in China. Zhao documented the interactions of the cast and crew as they came face-to-face with the disease during the production. Initially, many only showed fear because of their ignorance of the disease. Their attitude slowly started to change as they learned the science behind it. Zhao explains, “discrimination still exists because people lack knowledge and mainstream media stigmatizes the disease.” His goal is to inform people about the disease and fight the discrimination so as to bring hope to China’s 740,000 HIV-infected population.

Zhao Liang (Petition, Crime and Punishment) directs AIDS documentary in China

Friday, January 14th, 2011

A scene from Together (dir. Zhao Liang)

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.

Dan Edwards reports:

Zhao Liang is undoubtedly one of the leading lights of the independent Chinese documentary scene, and in the past I’ve written about his films Petition and Crime and Punishment… I was surprised to hear… that Zhao had just completed a film about HIV in China that had been passed for official release.

Indeed it is remarkable that the director of probing documentaries depicting Chinese police interrogation tactics on the North Korean border and the suppression of petitioners in the capital of Beijing now has the opportunity to make a film that can screen publicly in China. Zhao’s new film Together was able to be made as a companion piece Life Is a Miracle, a mainstream feature about a couple suffering from an illness suggesting HIV, with megastars Zhang Ziyi and Aaron Kwok directed by Gu Changwei. Together documents Zhao’s efforts to reach out to the community of HIV carriers and enlist several to appear in Gu’s film. Zhao’s film even has mainstream coverage in the Chinese press, as evidenced by this feature in China Daily.

Dan Edwards gives his first impressions of the film, plus an interview with Zhao Liang, on his site Screening China. Zhao reflects:

Before the shoot I had no knowledge at all of HIV – I gradually learned through preparing and shooting the film. Actually the Chinese are a very tolerant people. The discrimination is because people lack knowledge and mainstream media stigmatises the disease.

Read more at Screening China.

The Vicious Circle of Justice: Zhao Liang’s Crime and Punishment

Thursday, January 13th, 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.

This article was originally published November 4, 2010.

by Dan Edwards

Zhao Liang provided one of the most heartrending Chinese documentaries of recent times last year with Petition, an epic work about petitioners living on the fringes of China’s capital. It’s much rarer, however, to see stories about those enforcing the rules in the People’s Republic – the nature of Chinese state institutions means access is usually impossible. Which makes Zhao’s earlier film Crime and Punishment (Zui Yu Fa, 2007) all the more extraordinary, providing as it does an intimate snapshot of life inside a People’s Armed Police (PAP) station.

As Zhao explained in an interview earlier this year, he was only able to gain access to the station, located on the Chinese-Korean border in the remote northeast, because “these people are politically more naive and less politically savvy than their Beijing counterparts.” Zhao does not just exploit the officers’ naivety to expose their petty abuses of power however – the uniformed community provides a microcosm of the broader social structures informing the exercise of state power in contemporary China.


Profile of Activist Documentary Filmmaker Ai Xiaoming

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Filmmaker Ai Xiaoming filming sculpture by Yan Zhengxue (photo: Dan Edwards)

On his blog Screening China, Dan Edwards reports on his meeting with Ai Xiaoming, professor at Sun Yat Sen University and the maker of numerous investigative documentaries. In addition to interviewing Ai, Edwards has the special experience of following her at work, as she visits the home of dissident artist Yan Zhengxue, who was released from a three-year prison sentence in 2009. Edwards writes the following on Ai’s documentary filmmaking technique and philosophy:

I was impressed by how quickly Ai Xiaoming cut to the chase with her work, which seemingly relied on no preparation – she simply grabbed her camera and started rolling. It seems the camera for her is simply a tool – perhaps “a weapon” to quote another local filmmaker Ou Ning – which Ai Xiaoming uses to capture her subject’s testimonies. She appeared uninterested in questions of style or aesthetics. When I chatted to her later that night about the decade Zhao Liang spent filming the predicament of petitioners in Beijing for his documentary Petition, Ai Xiaoming commented that she could never spend so long on a project. “Our aim is to change things,” she said firmly, which I took to mean she prefers to get stories into the public domain as quickly as possible in order to try and effect change – or at least contribute to ongoing campaigns.

Yan Zhengxue's sculpture of Lin Zhao (photo: Dan Edwards)

Edwards also writes about Yan Zhengxue’s life and work, including the events leading to Yan’s arrest and an account of his near-death experience in prison. Attention is paid to a couple of sculptures of young women activists who were imprisoned and executed during the Cultural Revolution. One is Lin Zhao, who spent eight years in prison writing essays and poetry, using her own blood as ink. Lin Zhao is the subject of Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul, a documentary directed by Hu Jie, a frequent collaborator of Ai Xiaoming. The film investigates the suppressed history of Lin Zhao, a figure largely unknown to many Chinese but whose tragic life story is an inspiration to many activists today. Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul is considered a landmark in investigative documentary in China, especially in breaking the taboos of China’s recent past.

dGenerate is pleased to announce that it will be distributing three of Hu Jie’s films: Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul, Though I Am Gone, and East Wind Farm Camp (aka National East Wind Farm). All three films were included in “Sixty Years of Unsanctioned Memories in the People’s Republic,” a list of films dealing with forgotten or suppressed histories and marginal, dispossessed social groups in China. It is our hope that such important films, including Ai Xiaoming’s, will become more accessible to audiences around the world.

Jia Zhangke’s I Wish I Knew and Useful Jia Links

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Zhao Tao in I Wish I Knew (dir. Jia Zhangke)

Published as part of Dong Week at dGenerate Films, a series of articles on Jia Zhangke and the art world in China.

At RealTime Arts, Dan Edwards reviews Jia Zhangke’s new film I Wish I Knew. Some highlights:

There is a spectre haunting Jia Zhangke’s recent work: the spectre of time, of memories being displaced and history erased… But whereas Still Life and 24 City implicitly asked where a nation’s emotional, ethical and philosophical centre lies when so much of its heritage has been destroyed, Jia’s new documentary I Wish I Knew attempts to answer this question by reclaiming history from the ground up…

The contested nature of Shanghai’s past is highlighted not only through personal remembrances from various political and historical perspectives, but also through the filmmaker’s reflection on the ways in which the city’s life has been represented on screen. Shanghai has long been the centre of China’s film industry, and even when Hong Kong dominated Asian cinema, its industry was nurtured by Shanghai refugees who had fled the mainland in the wake of the Communist takeover…

I Wish I Knew resists simply positing an alternative narrative to what appears in mainland Chinese history books, or validating the version of Shanghai’s past told in Taiwan. Instead, the film redefines the very notion of history in China by refusing all singular, linear accounts of Shanghai’s development. For millennia succeeding dynasties rewrote or simply wiped clean what went before in China in order to shore up their own power, a tradition the Communists have pursued with violent determination. In contrast, Jia’s film gives voice to the vanquished as well as the victors, marking out history as an ever-evolving, always disputed discourse comprising a multitude of competing voices.

Read the full review. Dan Edwards’ personal blog devoted to Chinese cinema is Screening China.

There are many other reviews and resources related to I Wish I Knew and Jia Zhangke online. Here are just a few:


A New Voice on Chinese Film: Dan Edwards’ Screening China

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Directors Jia Zhangke, Wang Xiaoshuai and Lou Ye at the Beijing premiere of Wang's Chongqing Blues (photo courtesy of Screening China)

We’ve been following Dan Edwards‘ blog Screening China for the past several weeks, and it’s quickly shaping up to be an important source for reviews on the latest in Chinese film, especially from the indie/arthouse side. Dan, who is based in Beijing, writes for The Beijinger and Real Time Arts, among other publications. We’ve been linking all year to his coverage of our films and filmmakers: a review of Ghost Town; an interview with Liu Jiayin; a profile on documentary filmmakers; and a recap of the Hong Kong International Film Festival. He’s contributed a lot in a relatively short time, and it’s good to be able to access his content on his blog (which, ironically, is blocked in China).

Here are some recent highlights from his blog:


“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.