Posts Tagged ‘moma’

Self-Portrait in a DV Mirror: a Review of Li Ning’s Tape

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

By Carlo Labrador-Pangalangan


Li Ning accepts the Silver Award at YunFest for his film “Tape”

Tape, directed by Li Ning, will screen this Thursday at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as part of the series Fearless: Chinese Independent Documentaries.” Here is a review by filmmaker Carlo Labrador-Pangalangan, who watched the film when it screened at MoMA Documentary Fortnight in February.


In the past ten years, only a handful of films made me re-evaluate what I considered to be cinema, providing me with a new way of looking at things. Three of those films emerged from the independent filmmaking movement in China: Wang Bing’s Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks, Liu Jiayin’s first Oxhide film, and Li Ning’s Tape.

Li Ning could be considered a “late arrival” to the scene, emerging after many of the other digital filmmakers from China have already established themselves and are already working on their second or third projects. What an arrival, though. Li Ning has basically taken what people have become familiar with in Chinese independent cinema a step further. Actually, he’s opened another dimension.


“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:


Swimming in the Surreal: Notes from a Disorderly Screening of Disorder

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

By Kevin B. Lee

For one night, "Disorder" could not be contained to the screen

MoMA Documentary Fortnight is now over, and we at dGenerate headquarters in New York have more or less recovered from a week of intense activity, screening four of our new films as part of the series. Even with the edgy, challenging nature of the film, all of the screenings were well-attended and received. After both screenings of Fortune Teller, I talked with several audience members who were clearly moved after witnessing people living on the fringes of Chinese society, as well as director Xu Tong’s dedication in filming them. Viewers were equally amazed by the obsessive commitment of Li Ning in capturing the most intimate aspects of his life and creative struggles for five long, hard years in Tape. Even the six-hour marathon screening of Karamay left a couple dozen people eager to ask questions for director Xu Xin afterwards; though what they had to say weren’t so much questions as long, deeply emotional expressions in response to his film. We may have more to share about this in a later post.

But the screenings that took the cake were the two sold-out shows of Disorder, with director Huang Weikai in attendance. For some reason, there was a huge demand to see widespread social dysfunction in urban China, depicted in found footage video. For the second screening, Huang was joined by Xu Xin and independent film producer and programmer Zhu Rikun for an informative discussion, moderated by Professor Zhen Zhang of NYU. But it’s safe to say that the first screening was the more eventful. Take it from this review of the screening found on


Directors Li Ning (Tape) and Xu Tong (Fortune Teller) Introduce Their Films, Playing at MoMA Documentary Fortnight

Friday, February 18th, 2011

By Kevin B. Lee

As part of our screenings of Chinese independent documentaries at the MoMA Documentary Fortnight, we have produced video introductions with two of the directors: Li Ning (Tape) and Xu Tong (Fortune Teller). Directors Xu Xin (Karamay) and Huang Weikai (Disorder) will be present to introduce and discuss their films. Click here for full details and screening info.

Introductions can be viewed below. Read full descriptions of Tape and Fortune Teller

Li Ning introduces Tape:

Xu Tong introduces Fortune Teller:

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:


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.

CinemaTalk: Jia Zhangke in conversation with dGenerate’s Kevin B. Lee

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

dGenerate Films' Kevin B. Lee (right) pays tribute to Jia Zhangke at the Museum of Modern Art

On March 8 the Museum of Modern Art hosted “An Evening with Jia Zhangke,” where the renowned director spoke about his career and shared excerpts of his work, including a four minute preview of “I Wish I Knew,” his new documentary on Shanghai set to premiere later this year. Jia Zhangke’s longtime muse Zhao Tao also addressed the audience about her role in Jia’s films.

The second half of the evening comprised of a conversation between Jia, critic and programmer Howard Feinstein (who programmed a Jia retrospective at last year’s Sarajevo Film Festival), and dGenerate’s Kevin B. Lee. Fortunately we shot video of most of the event, which are embedded below in several segments.

On-stage translation was conducted by Vincent Cheng Tzu-wen. Videos after the break.

Raves Across the Board for Ghost Town – Now Playing at MoMA

Monday, March 15th, 2010
The Mao Zedong statue of Zhiziluo salutes the New York film critics for their reviews of Zhao Dayong's <i>Ghost Town</i>

The Mao Zedong statue of Zhiziluo salutes the New York film critics for their reviews of Ghost Town

We couldn’t be more pleased with this trifecta of fresh reviews from New York critics on the eve of Zhao Dayong‘s Ghost Town‘s weeklong run at the MoMA.

A.O. Scott writes in the New York Times:

Zhao has an exquisite ability to balance words with images… The life stories and household interactions that fill out the film’s three chapters take place against a natural background that is shot beautifully… A miniature epic of the everyday.

Time Out New York‘s David Fear gives the film four stars:

Zhao Dayong’s extraordinary documentary on life in the rural village of Zhiziluo, nestled at the foot of the mountains in China’s southwestern Yunnan province. Never mind the nation’s great economic leap forward; the longer you watch Zhao’s chronicle of the financially destitute and the bureaucratically forgotten, the more you feel that you’re witnessing a country fraying at its edges.

Nick Pinkterton in the Village Voice:

I do not expect to soon find scenes to match Ghost Town‘s mountaintop funeral, the running along after a rowdy exorcism, or the scanning of faces at the town Christmas chorale. His back to prosperity, Dayong finds hallowed ground.

If you haven’t seen what the critics are raving about, make a beeline for MoMA this week. Schedule and ticketing info here.

Acclaimed Documentary Ghost Town Makes Weeklong Run at MoMA

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Ghost Town (dir. Zhao Dayong)

Following its triumphant US Premiere at the 2009 New York Film Festival, Zhao Dayong’s Ghost Town will enjoy a weeklong run at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The MoMA will screen Ghost Town at the following dates:

  • Monday, March 15, 2010, 3 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 17, 2010, 4 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 18, 2010, 7 p.m.
  • Friday, March 19, 2010, 3:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 20, 2010, 4 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 21, 2010, 12:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at the MoMA Film Box Office adjacent to the The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 Street, New York, NY. Details at the MoMA site.

Further details and trailer after the break.


An Evening with Jia Zhangke, with dGenerate’s Kevin Lee

Friday, March 5th, 2010

In conjunction with MoMA’s Jia Zhangke retrospective, the director hosts a screening March 8 at 7pm of his Wo men de shi nian (Ten Years,2007) and Black Breakfast (2008), a segment from the international omnibus film Stories on Human Rights, as well as a sneak preview of an excerpt from his latest film, Shanghai Legend aka I Wish I Knew. Followed by a conversation between Jia Zhangke and Howard Feinstein, independent curator and critic; and Kevin B. Lee, critic, filmmaker, and programming executive, dGenerate Films.

Event details and ticket information found at MoMA.