Posts Tagged ‘documentary’

Tape (Jiao Dai)

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

LI Ning. China, 2010. Documentary, 168 minutes.
Mandarin w/ English subtitles.

“A riveting portrait of an artist’s attempts at expression and conflicts with societal norms.” – Museum of Modern Art

Performance artist Li Ning turns his life into art in this epic work of experimental documentary.

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. Li’s chaotic life becomes inseparable from the act of taping it, as if his experiences can only make sense on screen.

Tape shatters documentary conventions, utilizing a variety of approaches, including guerilla documentary, experimental street video, even CGI. Tape captures a decade’s worth of artistic aspirations and failures, while breaking new ground in individual expression in China. “Li succeeds in revealing his own soul” (Rotterdam International Film Festival).

Director’s Bio:

LI Ning is an avant-garde dancer and performance artist, who made his film debut with the documentary Tape.


Select Film Festivals:

WINNER, Silver Digital Award, YunFest Documentary Festival

OFFICIAL SELECTION, MoMA Documentary Fortnight

OFFICIAL SELECTION, International Film Festival Rotterdam

OFFICIAL SELECTION, Jeonju International Film Festival

OFFICIAL SELECTION, Beijing Independent Documentary Film Festival


(This title is available in the US only)
DVD (Colleges, Universities, Institutions)
Order Direct
DVD (K-12, Public Libraries, Select Groups) $195
Institutional Download
Coming Soon
Public Performance Exhibition (NTSC Beta, DVD)

Ai Weiwei’s Documentaries Available on YouTube

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

World-renowned artist Ai Weiwei is responsible for bold, iconic works such as the Beijing Olympic Stadium, but he has proven to be just as daring as a political activist. Ai has leveraged his celebrity status to speak openly about human rights abuses in China as few public figures have dared. As Evan Osnos writes in a 2010 profile on Ai in The New Yorker, “His cultural and political footprint is unique in a country where people generally face a choice between thriving within the confines of the system or shouting from the shadows outside it. For the moment, he is attempting to do both, and nobody is at all sure where that leads.” His efforts have not gone unpunished; earlier this month, his million-dollar studio in Shanghai was demolished by the government, who deemed the building illegal (this despite that the government had approved the building in 2008).

As part of his activism, Ai has become a prolific filmmaker documenting ugly cases of human rights violations in China. Below are 19 videos produced by Ai Weiwei Studio that have been posted to YouTube, many of which, as well as others, can be found on Ai Weiwei’s YouTube Channel. The shortest is four-and-a-half-minute long; the longest lasts three hours and 40 minutes. At the moment, most of them are without English subtitles. As YouTube is blocked in China, these videos can be accessed in China through the links listed on this site.


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.

CinemaTalk: Conversation with Zhao Liang, director of Crime and Punishment and Petition

Wednesday, January 12th, 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 August 17, 2010.

By Kevin B. Lee

Zhao Liang

Zhao Liang is one of China’s leading artists working in video, photography and documentary film. His work examines both rural and urban realities, fast-paced progress and nostalgia, the nature of politics, and the beauty of the natural world. He clearly connects with the underprivileged, whom he considers to be the engine of society, and homes in on the everyday aspects of life ignored by public institutions. He has directed two feature documentaries, Crime and Punishment and Petition, and his videos, photos and installations have been exhibited around the world.

To commemorate dGenerate Films’ release of Crime and Punishment, what follows is a transcript from Zhao Liang’s audience Q&A following a screening of the film at the China Institute on Feburary 5, 2010. Additionally, there are excerpts from a supplementary interview with Zhao conducted by dGenerate Films’ Kevin B. Lee.

Thanks to Isabella Tianzi Cai, Vincent Cheng and Yuqian Yan for their translation of the interviews.

1. From the audience Q&A following the China Institute screening of Crime and Punishment:

Question: Could you say something about how this film has been distributed in China and how it’s been received? Has it been screened in theaters? Has it been on the television as well as on the web?

Zhao: In China, this film was screened once in Beijing Independent Film Festival. Other than that, very rarely have people had the opportunity to see films like this, unless they go to certain art galleries where they might have such films. So it is definitely hard to have distribution done in China. Right now dGenerate Films Inc. in the United States is helping me distribute it here.


“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.


Chinese Law Enforcement Brings Out Its Feminine Side

Monday, January 10th, 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.

By Ariella Tai

Photo by Du Bin for The New York Times

Across China, the New York Times reports, governments have taken a rather blunt approach towards building a better public image for their urban law enforcers: hiring prettier ones. Chengguan, a special class of police, have become known for their willingness to utilize clubbing, thrashing and other forms of abuse in their efforts to discipline and maintain social order in recent years. In an attempt to improve this poor public image for the force, district officials in Chengdu have called for females between the ages of 18-22, with good figures and “orderly facial features” to serve, essentially, as decorations, or “flower vases…[with] other responsibilities]” according to an unnamed official. These female officers enjoy a limited tenure that ends at age 26, and lack even the power to confiscate the goods of the peddlers they are daily responsible for chasing into their assigned alleyways. Instead they serve in a supporting capacity, able only to threaten offenders with a report to their male supervisor.

This absurd aspect to Chinese law enforcement recalls Zhao Liang’s 2007 documentary, Crime and Punishment, which documents the daily lives of underworked military police on the border of North Korea. During an unforgiving winter, officers rigidly enforce law and order. They raid a private residence to bust an illegal mahjong game, casually abuse a pickpocket accused of throwing away evidence, and berate a confession out of a scrap collector working without a permit. The police switch between precise investigative procedure, explosions of violent fury, and moments of comic ineptitude, all captured incredibly before the camera.

We are proud to announce that Crime and Punishment will be presented on the big screen at the Anthology Film Archives. There will be showings Jan 13 at 6:45 & 9:15, and then one each on Sat and Sun, Jan 15 & 16 at 4:00.

Check here for more details. View a trailer below.

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 Students Produce Environmental Short Films

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

The Environment & Human Short Documentary Project is part of a national green project called “Qing Guo Qing Cheng Huan Jing Xin Guan Cha [Green Country Green City Environmental and Spiritual Observation].” The Project is organized and co-sponsored by the Society of Entrepreneurs and Ecology (SEE) Foundation, Beijing Indie Workshop (founded in 2005 by Zhang Xianmin), and the Tencent Company for Public Welfare in China this year. College students from roughly 200 Chinese colleges and universities were encouraged to participate in the project by submitting documentary proposals that investigate current environmental problems and seek innovative resolutions to them. Of the proposals, 20 were selected as finalists. These students were given free training in video filmmaking as well as a small fund to complete their documentaries. Seven documentaries were given special mention by the event organizers. Below is a list of four that received a special public screening at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) on November 9, 2010 in Beijing.

“The Summer of Nima” by JIANG Hua
(video available at
Nima lives with his family deep in the mountains of Shangri-la in Yunnan. For centuries, they have been doing the family timber business. On one summer day, a group of outsiders entered their life, and nothing has been the same since then.

“River Keeper” by ZHONG Yanshan
Two homeless young men make a living by scavenging along the Xi’an Moat. Their life is full of plight and struggles.

“Complete Eggs” by CHEN Liang
(video available at
In the Erguna River Valley in Inner Mongolia, villagers have a tradition of picking up fresh eggs laid by wild birds, but this is having a huge negative impact on the environment.

“Trash Demonstration Village” by ZHANG Hao
Many villagers living next to a huge hazardous landfill site in Heilongjiang are unhappy about their situation, but what can they do?

On the Edge of Documentary in China: The Films of Yang Rui at NYU

Monday, December 13th, 2010

The Bimo Records (dir. Yang Rui)

Event Date and Time:

December 17, 2010
1:30pm – 7:30pm


Department of Cinema Studies, Michelson Theater
721 Broadway, Room 648
New York, NY 10003

On the Edge of Documentary in China: The Films of Yang Rui

1:30pm – 3:00pm
Bimo Records Bimoji (2006, 91 min, English subtitles)
In the Daliang Mountains of Sichuan live the tribal Yi people. Their priests, or bimo, communicate with the spirit world on behalf of the community. Yang follows the lives of three bimo: The Spell Casting Bimo, from a clan famous for their curses and whose black magic is now forbidden by the government; The Soul Calling Bimo who cures the sick and calls to souls for help and good fortune; and thirdly, The Village Cadre Bimo, empowered by the government with religious and political status as a cadre.
Winner, Best Documentary Award in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan Student Film Festival (2008), nominated for Basil Wright Film Prize in Britain Royal Anthropology Film Festival (2007), shown at Locarno, and the Margaret Mead Film Festival (2006)

3:00pm – 3:30pm Break

3:30pm – 5:15pm
Crossing the Mountain Fanshan (2009, 98 min, English subtitles)
Violence lurks in the forest – headhunters, bombs, riflemen — but so do games, puzzles, dances and love. “Crossing the Mountain” emerges in fragments whose young protagonists live with the ghosts of past wars. Yang spent much time over a three-year period with the Wa people on the Chinese border with Burma, collecting their stories to produce this highly unusual, experimental ethnographically inspired fiction, producing a mysterious film, full of beautiful landscapes, dreamlike silent connections, and eerily gorgeous light. Documentary, story, mythmaking and ethnography, the film is as tough in its anti-exoticizing savvy as it is captivating in its embrace of an intangible spirituality.
Shown at Hong Kong Film Festival (2009); The 40th Berlinale (2010); Vancouver International Film Festival (2010)

5:30pm – 6:30pm Q&A with the Filmmaker, Yang Rui

6:30pm – 7:30pm Reception

About the Director Yang Rui

Yang Rui was born in 1975 in Liaoning Province in northeastern China and graduated from the Journalism Department of Liaoning University in 1995. She then became a documentary director in Liaoning TV and CCTV. Yang graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in 2005 with a BFA while working as Tian Zhuangzhuang’s assistant director for the productions Delamu and Go Master. She lives in Beijing.

Presented by The Department of Cinema Studies and The Center for Religion and Media

Sponsored by The Center for Media, Culture and History, China House, NYU, & with the support of the Asian Cultural Council, and the NYU Humanities Initiative

This event is free and open to the public

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.