Posts Tagged ‘new york times’

CinemaTalk: Conversation with Edward Wong of the New York Times on Chinese Indie Filmmaking

Monday, August 29th, 2011

In the August 14 edition of the New York Times, Edward Wong profiles Zhao Liang, director of two of the most fearlessly independent social documentaries to come from China, Crime and Punishment and Petition. Zhao has recently transitioned to work with the Chinese government to produce Together, an “official” documentary on Chinese HIV victims. That decision and an earlier one involving involving Zhao’s withdrawal from an Australian film festival in support of a political protest by the Chinese government have drawn the criticism of a few occasional supporters and collaborators, including outspoken artist-activist Ai Weiwei, whose detention by the Chinese government this year drew international attention. The article summarizes its central concern in one paragraph:

Mr. Zhao’s evolution from a filmmaker hounded by the government to one whom it celebrates offers a window into hard choices that face directors as they try to carve out space for self-expression in China’s authoritarian system. Like Mr. Zhao, many seek to balance their independent visions with their desires to live securely and win recognition.

Listen to a podcast interview with Wong from the Sinica podcast on Popup Chinese.

We interviewed Wong about his experience reporting this story and its broader relevance on art and culture in contemporary China.

dGF: What attracted you to report on this story?

Edward Wong: While living in Beijing, I had watched and greatly admired two of Zhao Liang’s films, “Crime and Punishment” and “Petition.” In November 2010, I met him at a dinner in the 798 arts district with Karin Chien, the founder of dGenerate Films. At that time, he was working on “Together,” a documentary that the Health Ministry had commissioned as a public service announcement about people with HIV/AIDS. For the film, he had just recorded a song by Peng Liyuan, the celebrity wife of Xi Jinping, the man who is expected to become the next leader of China. Zhao also told me about how he had used social networking websites to track down interview subjects with HIV/AIDS. This new project sounded interesting. We talked a lot too about the making of “Crime and Punishment,” and about how he had lied to police officers to get access to their station house in northeast China.

I found Zhao to be an engaging person, and I thought that he might make an interesting profile. As I spent time with him, I found he had a lot of interesting things to say not only about making films, but also about the role of artists and intellectuals in China.

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Zhao Liang profiled in New York Times

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

In a lengthy New York Times feature, Ed Wong profiles Zhao Liang, director of two of the most fearlessly independent social documentaries to come from China, Crime and Punishment and Petition. Zhao has recently transitioned to work with the Chinese State Film Bureau to produce Together, an “official” documentary on Chinese HIV victims. As a result, he has drawn the criticism of former supporters and collaborators, including outspoken artist-activist Ai Weiwei, whose detention by the Chinese government this year drew international attention. The article summarizes its central concern in one paragraph:

Mr. Zhao’s evolution from a filmmaker hounded by the government to one whom it celebrates offers a window into hard choices that face directors as they try to carve out space for self-expression in China’s authoritarian system. Like Mr. Zhao, many seek to balance their independent visions with their desires to live securely and win recognition.

Accompanying the article are two videos: one in which Zhao shares his thoughts on filmmaking in China, and another in which Ai Weiwei confronts Zhao on camera over the withdrawal of his film Petition from the 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival in order to avoid political controversy.

dGenerate Films is the distributor of Zhao’s film Crime and Punishment. It can be purchased through dGenerate or Amazon, or viewed online at Amazon or Fandor.

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:

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“The Power of Committed and Honest Cinema.” New York Times Reviews Petition and Crime and Punishment

Friday, January 14th, 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.

Petition (dir. Zhao Liang)

A.O. Scott reviews Petition and Crime and Punishment in the New York Times.

The right of the people to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” as the First Amendment to the United States Constitution phrases it, would seem to be a basic feature of the relationship between citizen and state. Even nondemocratic systems acknowledge the principle that the rulers should listen to the complaints of the ruled. Zhao Liang‘s “Petition,” a brave and wrenching new documentary from China, takes a bottom-up view of the cruel and absurd ways that lofty ideal is put into practice on the streets of Beijing.

Mr. Zhao’s camera is a stubborn, patient witness to some shocking scenes of bullying and intimidation, and he also offers a sympathetic ear to the ordinary people whose government hardly seems to care. “Petition” is an anthology of Kafkaesque anecdotes, most of them fragmentary, but what gives it shape and almost unbearable dramatic weight are the handful of stories the director pursues in detail.

“Petition” opens on Friday at the Anthology Film Archives, which is also presenting Mr. Zhao’s earlier feature, “Crime and Punishment.” That film, about the day-to-day work of military police officers, takes place far from Beijing, but its fine-grained insights into the workings of state power complement and complicate those seen in “Petition…” Together they offer eye-opening testimony both to the rigors of life in contemporary China and to the power of committed and honest cinema.

Read the full review.

The Other Side of the Chinese Student Success Story: We Are the… of Communism

Monday, December 20th, 2010

We Are the... of Communism (dir. Cui Zi'en)

By Ariella Tai

Earlier this month a study conducted by the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, showed Shanghai students placing first in the world, far outscoring the United States. The New York Times article reporting on these “surprising” test scores posits that a stronger “culture of education” is responsible for the stellar performance of Shanghai 15 year-olds, as well as raising anxieties that students in the United States are lagging academically. Collective investment in China’s reputation as reflected by the test scores, as well as an “amazingly strong” work ethic are also attributed to the high scores. Mark Schneider, commissioner of the Department of Education under the Bush Administration, suggests that the government may be allowing especially talented high school students to study in Shanghai instead of their home provinces in order to boost city performance on such exams.

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Changing Times for Queer Lives in China

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Lesbian wedding in China (Photo from crtv.nl)

by Isabella Tianzi Cai

In a “Letter from China” column for the New York Times on September 1, 2010, Howard W. French elaborates on China’s changing attitude towards queer culture based on his personal observations in Shanghai. Having worked and lived in Shanghai for just under a decade, French is well aware of Chinese people’s increasing psychological tolerance towards homosexuals in their midst.

French says that it is most evident in “public intimacy between women,” which he supports in the letter by recounting a few of his personal experiences, most memorably, witnessing two teenage girls kissing passionately in a Shanghai subway car, without regard for the older passengers watching them with consternation. It should be noted that this incident is without precedent; a similar event in 2008 was captured on video and created a stir when posted on the internet.

French offers his understanding of this social phenomenon:

As this society rapidly grows richer, its social fabric and mores have been changing in ways far more dramatic than even the physical landscape, and sexual choice and expression are arguably in the leading edge of this upheaval.

Although this trend, as articulated by French, is more or less inevitable, the transition from a conservative society to a liberal one is neither as easy or as fast as he makes it out to be.

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New York Times profile of Spring Fever director Lou Ye

Thursday, August 5th, 2010
by Isabella Tianzi Cai

Spring Fever (dir. Lou Ye)

In The New York Times, critic Dennis Lim profiled Chinese director Lou Ye and his film Spring Fever, which opens in New York this weekend. Spring Fever won the best screenplay at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. It centers on the story of a married man’s extramarital relationship with another man; the drama also involves his wife, a private detector, and the detector’s girlfriend.

The Chinese state banned Lou Ye from making films for a period of five years in 2006 for the production of Summer Palace, whose story alluded to the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre in Beijing. In order to shoot Spring Fever, Lou moved underground and had to work constantly under the fear that his equipment might be confiscated and the production halted.
Lim’s article highlights Lou’s determination to make the sex-loaded Spring Fever “in defiance of that ban, with a subject guaranteed to vex the Chinese censors.” In Lou’s words:
Sex is an indispensable part of a natural human being. Starting from sex, each individual human being can learn how to frankly face himself and the freedom he has, and learn how to listen to and follow himself instead of others.

In Urban China, Resisting the Land Grab

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

by Ariella Tai

The Laogucheng neighborhood in Beijing is being demolished. (Photo: Shiho Fukada, The New York Times)

The New York Times recently featured an article entitled “Trampled in a Land Rush, Chinese Resist.” In anticipation of the possible passing of new legislation to protect the rights of low-income homeowners, local officials and developers are rushing to take advantage of the current absence of regulation. In neighborhoods like Beijing’s Laogucheng, residents have united as a community, standing up to real-estate developers planning to level their homes and construct enormously profitable high-rises and greenbelts in their stead.

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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.

DV Management Regulation in the People’s Republic of China

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

In the New York Times article “Indie Filmmakers: China’s New Guerillas” reporter Kirk Semple mentions an “undefined gray area” in which today’s digital independent filmmakers work under the close watch (and occasional intervention) of the government. As a background information resource, we have procured and translated the official government statement concerning the monitoring of digital video work in China, issued in 2004, and referred to whenever a party is prosecuted for making, distributing or exhibiting illegal films in China.

Notice on Strengthening DV Management in Theater, Television and on the Internet” was officially issued on May 24th, 2004 by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. The following is a translation of its main part:

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