Posts Tagged ‘karamay’

Beijing Independent Documentary Festival Cancelled

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Jonathan Landreth reports for the Hollywood Reporter:

BEIJING – Organizers of a long-standing Chinese independent documentary film festival pulled the plug on their own May 1-7 event a day after the state-run First Beijing International Film Festival announced a documentary section, local media reported Wednesday.

Organizers of the Eighth Documentary Film Festival China in the Beijing suburb of Tongzhou surprised participants by canceling the event that for seven years has been one of the country’s few outlets for non-fiction films made outside the state-approved filmmaking system.

“I was surprised that they suddenly canceled the event,” director Xu Xin told the English-language Global Times late Tuesday.


San Francisco Press Raves Over “Fearless” Series – Films Start This Weekend

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Karamay (dir. Xu Xin)

Fearless: Chinese Independent Documentaries” is a monthlong series of films screening at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. The series opens this Sunday with Karamay, Xu Xin’s 6 hour investigation of the 1994 Karamay fire. Other titles include Disorder, which just won Best Documentary at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and Tape, which recently won the Silver Award at YunFest.

For details on the screenings and venues visit the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Reviews from local press:

SF Bay Guardian:

There is a long history of radical documentaries that contest official histories and sanctioned depictions of everyday life, but rare is the concentrated activism we see in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts series “Fearless: Chinese Independent Documentaries.” These risk-taking records of injustice bear no resemblance to the easy history lessons and celebrity profiles that pass for documentary in the HBO/Sundance sphere. With extended running times and steadfast dedication to witnessing people, places, and histories the Chinese government would just as soon erase, the films are monumental in the deepest sense. “Fearless” opens with Karamay, Xu Xin’s six-hour examination of a tragic fire that killed 323 people while leaving several officials unharmed. As with several of the films that follow, the exhaustiveness of the treatment is itself a rebuke to the government’s suppression of the facts.

SF Weekly:

In December 1994, the top primary-school students in Karamay, China, assembled at the town theater to perform for smiling Communist Party and city functionaries. This was a high honor as childhood events go, a ceremonial rite of passage attended by the heads of the community. Out of nowhere a short circuit ignited something (it’s not known exactly what), provoking this infamous announcement: “Everybody keep quiet. Don’t move. Let the leaders go first.” And so they did. When the smoke cleared, 288 children lay dead, along with 35 teachers and other adults. The government suppressed this heinous display of cowardice and “leadership,” blocking all outlets for the parents’ grief and outrage. Xu Xin’s six-hour documentary, Karamay, is a landmark in journalistic diligence and a dedicated act of commemoration and healing. The opener of the six-film series, “Fearless: Chinese Independent Documentaries,” Karamay generously gives families and teachers space to relate their memories of that awful December day – and how it forever clouded the way they view their country, leaders, and fellow citizens. Made with the expectation that more foreigners would see it than Chinese, this human-scale epic speaks in a language that transcends borders and governments.

Read some interesting responses by Chinese nationals to Karamay when the film screened at MoMA Documentary Fortnight.

Read a review of Karamay by Robert Koehler in Variety.

Tragic Deaths and Media Cover-Ups, from 1994 to Today

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

Earlier this month, the story of a dead Chinese college student circulated the Internet under close monitoring by Chinese press authorities. The 23-year-old man, Zhao Wei, was a college student making his way home by train. He traded his seat with a passenger in another car so as to stay close with his friend. Somewhere during this exchange, he got on the bad side of his train conductor. He was led away by railway police and mysteriously died.

An initial autopsy report ruled that Zhao’s death was due to his jumping off the train. His body suffered many injuries, with signs also showing that he had been handcuffed. Unconvinced by the findings, Zhao’s bereft parents have been trying to petition the authorities to investigate further. As stated by official Chinese news channels, the case will be properly handled by the railway police, which, ironically, may have also caused the death.


“What Else Can We Do?” Personal Responses to Karamay

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

By Kevin B. Lee

Karamay (dir. Xu Xin)

Xu Xin’s devastating epic documentary Karamay is set to make its San Francisco premiere this Sunday at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. (Details here). In advance of the screening, I looked back at footage from a discussion held after the film’s New York premiere at the MoMA Documentary Fortnight last month, with director Xu Xin and producer Zhu Rikun both present. Going into the event, I wondered how a local U.S. audience would respond to a six-hour Chinese documentary, and I was especially curious to see how many would stick around for a Q&A session. By the end of the epic screening, a couple dozen people remained in the audience, and from their words they were clearly moved. In fact, the session was not so much dominated by questions and answers as by a series of intense and highly thoughtful responses from several audience members.

It was particularly interesting to hear the reactions of young overseas Chinese students who watched the film, given the film’s critical subject matter as well as past reports of disturbances at Chinese film screenings caused by nationalistic audience members highly sensitive to unflattering depictions of their homeland. (For a vivid example see Jia Zhangke’s first hand accounts of his recent festival experiences.) In the case of this screening, some Chinese audience members expressed a complex and highly personal response to Xu’s film. One viewer remarked how the film maintains a critical view of Chinese society without catering to Western stereotypes:

“What sets your film apart from other Chinese independent films circulating in the international market is that it does not simply fit into a simplified humanistic or humanitarian rhetoric that most Western viewers impose on China’s situation. We tend to demonize China as such, that their educational system brainwashes people and everyone in China just sits there following the rules without any sense of agency over the experience of their own lives. The very structure of your film, especially the beginning shots that take so long with the close ups of each child, and the six hour length of your film, actually demands the viewer to approach China and contemporary Chinese politics and rethink from a critical point of view, not from a simple humanitarian rhetoric of the West. That’s what I think is the most productive part of your film and I appreciate it.”

Another young viewer had an even more personalized response:


This Week’s Events: Chinese Cinema Club in New York, Karamay in San Francisco, and More

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Though I Am Gone (dir. Lin Zhao)


Three Times at the Chinese Cinema Club at MOCA

Friday, April 1st at 7 PM

Museum of Chinese in America
215 Centre St.
New York, NY 10013

4 out of 4 stars from Roger Ebert
Directed by Hou Hsaio Hsien, Three Times tells three separate stories of love between May and Chen, set in 1911, 1966, and 2005.

Tickets are $10/adult; $8/student & senior, and free for MOCA members. RSVP to or call 212.619.4785.

Karamay at Yerba Buena Center for the Art

Sunday, April 3 at 1 PM

Screening as part of the Series: Fearless: Chinese Independent Documentaries

701 Mission Street
San Francisco, California, 94103

an astonishing achievement on every level” – Robert Koehler of Variety
In 1994, a a community center fire broke out, killing over 300 children. This film is an investigation of a national tragedy long held in silence.

Tickets for the screening are $7 for general admission and $5 for seniors, students, and teachers. Gallery admission is included in ticket price. Tickets can be purchased online here.

Info on more events, including screenings in Honolulu and New Jersey, after the break.


New York Times Profiles Chinese Indie Docs and Other Coverage of MoMA Doc Fortnight

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Fortune Teller (dir. Xu Tong)

In the New York Times, Larry Rohter profiles the Chinese independent film movement, with special attention on the films screening at the Documentary Fortnight Festival at MoMA:

As a group they give a new and truer meaning to the phrase “independent film.” In a country where all movies must obtain official approval to be exhibited commercially, the five Chinese directors whose work will be featured beginning on Friday in the Museum of Modern Art’s Documentary Fortnight are forced to operate in a peculiar gray zone.

“You have to have an awful lot of energy and passion to make films with no funding and no prospect of having them seen in public in your home country except under the radar and off the grid,” said Sally Berger, the curator of the festival, who visited China last fall. “These are sophisticated, experimental filmmakers with a strong aesthetic sense, making films filled with a sense of urgency and change, even though they know they have a better chance of having their work seen abroad than at home.”

Director Xu Xin of Karamay weighs in on the importance of his work:


A Sneak Peak at Film Pages for Three New dGenerate Titles, All Playing at MoMA Doc Fortnight

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

In preparation for the Documentary Fortnight screenings of new dGenerate titles, we have prepared pages introducing each of our films in the series. Have a look and learn more about these distinguished titles who have the honor of screening at the Museum of Modern Art.

Karamay (dir. Xu Xin)

Fortune Teller (dir. Xu Tong)

Tape (dir. Li Ning)

In addition, Huang Weikai’s mind-blowing Disorder is already listed in our catalog and available for pre-order.

The 10th Annual Documentary Fortnight Festival of the Museum of Modern Art in New York runs from Wednesday February 16 to 28, 2011. Find out the screening details.

MoMA Documentary Fortnight Opens This Week, Featuring Four New Titles from dGenerate

Monday, February 14th, 2011

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

Karamay (dir. Xu Xin)

The 10th Annual Documentary Fortnight Festival of the Museum of Modern Art in New York runs from Wednesday February 16 to 28, 2011, showcasing 20 new outstanding international non-fiction films and videos. Four contemporary Chinese documentaries distributed by dGenerate Films will screen at the festival: Xu Xin’s Karamay (2010), Huang Weikai’s Disorder (2009), Xu Tong’s Fortune Teller (2010), and Li Ning’s Tape (2010). In addition, I Wish I Knew (2010), the latest film by Jia Zhangke (whose featurette Dong is distributed by dGenerate), will also screen.

Information about the five films after the break. Tickets can be purchased at the MoMA box office as early as the day before screening.

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.

Film Comment Spotlights Chinese Indie Films from Vancouver Film Fest

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Rumination (dir. Xu Ruotao)

Over at Film Comment, critic Robert Koehler zeroes in on the Dragons and Tigers showcase of Asian Cinema at the Vancouver International Film Festival, programmed by Tony Rayns and Shelly Kraicer. He devotes special attention to the films from China, proclaiming, “The selection of Chinese films reconfirmed the fact that, right now, no country in the world is making more interesting and original work.”

Koehler singles in on three films in particular, comments on each excerpted below:

“Xu Ruotao’s Rumination, an astonishing and radical re-envisioning of the Cultural Revolution. Xu comes to the cinema from the visual arts and confidently rejects many conceits of not just historical film genre, but also of the poetic, auteur-driven tendencies that dominate the current festival scene. He often aims to make the viewer reconsider what they think they know about the cinematic re-staging of history. His treatment of Red Guard units running amok in the countryside is alternately a dream choreographed as a riot, and a documentary of the ways revolutionary thought is turned into religion. For instance: during scenes of the soldiers’ chanting and recitation of Maoist cant – interrupted by beatings and the interrogations of innocents – a weirdly feverish ecstasy fills the screen.