Posts Tagged ‘hu jie’

A Visit with “Red Collector” Liu Debao

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

"Red Collector" Liu Debao in his studio filled with vintage Mao memorabilia (photo: Shanghai Journal)

On his blog Shanghai Journal, Andrew Field reports on his encounter with Liu Debao, a Shanghai artist who has collected over 3,600 film reels from the Mao era. Field first heard about Liu from an interview with cinema scholar Chris Berry posted on our site. He visited Liu in his studio along with Ying Qian of Harvard, who is currently researching Mao era Chinese cinema. A full report of their visit can be found on Field’s blog.

Two films that are probably not in Liu’s collection, but are essential records of Mao era China, are Though I Am Gone and Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul, both directed by Hu Jie. Learn more about them in dGenerate’s catalog.

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.

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Shelly on Film: The Use and Abuse of Chinese Cinema, Part Two

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

By Shelly Kraicer

This is the conclusion of Shelly Kraicer’s essay “The Use and Abuse of Chinese Cinema (in the West).” Click here for the introduction and first half of the essay.

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Oxhide 2 (dir. Liu Jiayin)

4. Exemplary Asian independent art cinema. This misreading has something in common with Number 1 (“Exotic, colorful diversion”) , but in a more rarified, sophisticated form. It also contradicts (but exists in a weird sort of symbiosis with) Number 5 below. There is supposed to be something essentially “Asian” (meaning usually East Asian) about the predominant mode of contemporary art cinema now celebrated in festivals worldwide. Films that convey China’s backwardness (see Number 6 below) often employ a Andre Bazin-influenced mise en scène that is post-realist in its effect. Long takes, a demandingly slow pace, opaque storytelling, a distant motionless camera, inexpressive, non-professional actors, lots and lots of visual and narrative blankness, emptiness, stillness. Examples abound, the best recent exponents being Yang Heng (Betelnut, Sun Spots), Yang Rui (Crossing the Mountain), and in her own inimitable way, Liu Jiayin (Oxhide and Oxhide 2).

This analysis reduces an often surprising diversity of film styles into something that is assumed to spring, essentially and almost automatically, from a specific historical and cultural background, with local visual and pictorial traditions transmuted directly into their filmic correlatives. This in a sense over-simplifies and over-particularizes Chinese filmmakers who are utterly fluent (more than most of us) in the world-cinema image market (you can easily find films from everywhere, from every era, in China’s wonderfully eclectic bootleg DVD shops). By insisting on the “Chinese-ness” of these films, a special understanding, a privileged access to the films’ “essences,” may reserved for Sinological experts.

5. International art cinema master(s’) works. On the other hand, it’s just as easy to abuse Chinese cinema as some sort of proof that master directors work in a universal style recognizalbe to experts, critics, professionals, and well-trained festival audiences. In absolute contradistinction to Number 4 above, this attitude says “you don’t need to know anything about China and its specific cultural history to appreciate these films. They are great cinema, full stop”. This can be a branding exercise, like Number 2 (“Commercial entertainment”), but one for a more discriminating audience who needs to be reassured that she or he will be able to enjoy the latest Chinese masterpiece without unduly stressing over its foreignness. This is global art, i.e. It belongs to “Us,” not to its incidentally “Other” creators. Hegemony reasserts itself as art / film criticism, denaturing a film for our appropriation and viewing pleasure (with emphasis on the pleasure). This tendency can be seen in the flattering (for a forty-year-old director) inclusion of the latest Jia Zhangke film I Wish I Knew in the “Masters” section of the Toronto International Film Festival programme.

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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.

Banned Chinese Independent Documentaries Shine Overseas

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Director Ai Xiaoming

The Epoch Times has an informative article by Liang Zhen on Chinese independent documentaries, published on the heels of two film festivals that spotlighted these films: the Hong Kong International Film Festival and the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, the latter of which was programmed by Shelly Kraicer. The article describes several recent important films from the independent documentary movement in China: Petition by Zhao Liang, Karamay by Xu Xin, and works by Hu Jie and Ai Xiaoming. Ai Xiaoming gives a concluding quote attesting to the mission of many of these filmmakers:

“Today’s China is losing an important part – memory. This is how authorities maintain an autocratic ruling: They take away history and thus take away common sense, morals, and many other things,” she said. “If we persistently record history over the past 10 years, we will be able to see the changes in the decade. We can save this history for future generations.”

Read the full article: (in English) (in Chinese)

Sixty Years of Unsanctioned Memories in the People’s Republic

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

At the 60th anniversary of the founding of the P.R.C., Fanhall.com published a list of fifteen key independent documentaries as their tribute to the celebration. Entitled “Sixty Years of Unsanctioned Memories in the People’s Republic,” these digital video films present vivid pictures of Chinese life, society and landscape rarely seen in government-approved news or the overwhelming reports about China in mainstream western media. They present and reflect on modern Chinese history from the perspective of common citizens and marginalized social groups. German-Jewish political philosopher Hannah Arendt distinguishes private and public realms as “the distinction between things that should be hidden and things that should be shown.” These independent works try to break the line and present the hidden, “private” scenes and stories to the public. The list also links to the synopses of the films, some with English translations.

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