Posts Tagged ‘film’

Review: The Transition Period shows the true power center of Chinese government

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

"The Transition Period" shows the inner workings of local politics in China

U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke’s recent arrival in Beijing generated intense discussions among Chinese nationals about how Chinese civil servants compare unfavorably to their American counterparts. As reported in a September 20th article in The Wall Street Journal’s blog “China Real Time Report,” the central government and its affiliated media bodies such as the Guangming Daily and the Xinhua News Agency tried to cast aspersions over the political motives behind the U.S. government’s choice of a Chinese-American ambassador. But Chinese online netizens focused on something entirely different. After seeing photos of Locke buying his own coffee and carrying his own bags, and learning that he flew coach to China, Chinese web commentators assailed their civil servants for squandering taxpayers’ money on ridiculously extravagant meals, cars, and the like, and for shirking physical work and other chores that they consider to be below their dignity.

Zhou Hao’s 2011 documentary The Transition Period, which will be playing next Monday in Chicago’s Doc Films series on Chinese independent cinema, looks at the working life of one typical Chinese civil servant by the name of Guo Yongchang before his transfer to a new post within the Chinese government. Shot over the last three months of Guo working as the party secretary of the Committee of the Communist Party of Gushi County in Xinyang Municipality of Henan Province, this documentary presents different facets of Guo’s work as a medium- to low-level Chinese civil servant in a leading position. This article aims at laying out some groundwork in China’s political system and its political environment for first-time viewers of the documentary, as sometimes the stories in the documentary are more complicated than their presentations. (Spoilers may follow.)


Beijing New Youth Film Festival sets stage for young directors

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

By Genevieve Carmel

Participating filmmakers at the 2nd Annual Beijing New Youth Film Festival (photo: Genevieve Carmel)

The 2nd annual Beijing New Youth Film Festival was held from September 9-18. Organized by the Trainspotting Culture Salon, this young festival makes space for new directors to showcase their work, connect with more experienced filmmakers, and receive feedback from peers and critics. Screenings and discussions were held at CNEX, Trainspotting, and the Wenjin International Art Center at Tsinghua University. The jury included a diverse team of authors, creators, and art critics, in addition to Fifth Generation filmmaker Lv Yue, who was the director of photography for works including Zhang Yimou’s To Live and Feng Xiaogang’s Aftershock.

The festival was divided into three program sections: An invitational section featuring new work by distinguished directors, a competition section for new directors, and an Austrian section, programmed by the Austro Sino Arts Program. The opening and closing films of the festival were Pema Tseden’s Old Dog and Zhao Liang’s Together, respectively.

This year’s New Youth Image Award was given to the early Li Xianting Film School graduate Zheng Kuo for his second documentary The Cold Winter, which follows the 2009 artist demonstrations against the demolition of art districts surrounding Beijing’s 798 art zone. The New Youth Image Award was also bestowed on painter-turned-filmmaker Tao Huaqiao for his partly dramatized documentary Luohan, about gang culture in his Jiangxi Province hometown. The animated film Piercing Me by Liu Jian and the documentary Mirror of Emptiness by Ma Li received Distinguished Technical Awards. Mirror of Emptiness, about a Buddhist monastery on the Tibetan Plateau, also won the Special Jury Award. Finally, Deng Bochao’s documentary Under the Split Light, about the disappearance and preservation of Hakka cultural traditions on Hainan Island, received the Humanitarian Award.

The following is a full list of films screened at the festival:


CinemaTalk: Chris Berry on Cultural Revolution Cinema

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Interviewed by Michael Chenkin

Chris Berry

Chris Berry is Professor of film and television studies at Goldsmiths University of London, and co-editor of the recent volume The New Chinese Documentary Film Movement: For the Public Record. Most recently he co-curated a special film series “A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire: The Cultural Revolution in the Cinemawith Katja Wiederspahn for the Film Archiv Austria, with the cooperation with the Museum für Völkerkunde (Ethnological Museum and the Film Archive Austria)in its special exhibition “The Culture of the Cultural Revolution.” We caught up with Professor Berry to learn more about the films and his experience in curating the series.

dGF: Has this exhibition changed your understanding of the Cultural Revolution and film? What were the major obstacles you faced in curating the exhibition at *Film Archiv Austria*?

Chris Berry: I guess my thinking about the Cultural Revolution was already changing along with a lot of other peoples’, and the process of putting together the series became part of that. I was very struck when I read the Tsinghua University professor and leading mainland public intellectual Professor Wang Hui’s comments in “Contemporary Chinese Thought and the Question of Modernity,” where he argued that the legitimacy of the entire contemporary Chinese political, social and cultural formation is built on the repudiation of the Cultural Revolution. Along with everyone else, I had taken that repudiation for granted for a long time and not gone much further. If today’s combination of neo-liberal economics and authoritarian politics needs a stereotype of the Cultural Revolution as a disastrous combination of the opposite — a command economy and anarchic politics — maybe that’s too simple. It’s not that I want to embrace the Cultural Revolution! But I think it made me realize that we need to decouple the Cultural Revolution from legitimization of the present to get a more complex understanding of it.


What American Indies Can Learn from Their Chinese Counterparts

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

This article by dGenerate’s founder and president Karin Chien was originally published by IndieWire on the blog of independent film producer Ted Hope. This is a revised version of the article with some clarifications in language. Additionally, Karin and dGenerate’s VP of Programming Kevin Lee hand-picked six films as a starter kit for anyone interested in discovering the world of Chinese indie films. Full article and list of films can be found after the break.


Karin Chien

Let me start by making a provocative statement – in my three years of distributing and working with Chinese independent filmmakers, I’ve experienced greater creative freedom than in ten years of producing independent film in the US.

For most of us, Chinese independent cinema is an unknown. A film like Zhang Yimou’s Hero, financed with Chinese state backing, about Chinese empire, and made by a party-line director, is sold here as arthouse fare, distributed byMiramax. Subtitles are enough to qualify a film as “independent cinema” in America.

So let’s begin with a redefinition. The films I work with are made outside the state studio system and without official government authorization. These are films that do not submit scripts or finished products to censorship committees. These are also films that cannot obtain official distribution or official funding in China. These films are often referred to in the West as unauthorized, underground filmmaking. The Chinese filmmakers call it independent cinema.

So how do you make films outside the system in China? (more…)

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)

Director Ying Liang to Visit NY and Bay Area

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009
Photo courtesy World Socialist Website

Photo courtesy World Socialist Website

dGenerate films is proud to welcome director Ying Liang to the New York City and SF Bay Area at the end of April and beginning of May. Ying will attend screenings of his most recent two features, The Other Half and Good Cats. (more…)