Posts Tagged ‘ou ning’

Struggles of Chinese Evictees Turned Into Video Game

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Nail Household Fighting Against Demolition Squad

by Sara Beretta

Sometimes reality exceeds the virtual, in its absurdity, strangeness and grotesquery. It also happens that the virtual realm can help in coping with the harshness of real life, by re-enacting and mocking its absurdity and cruelty. This is the case of Nail Household Fighting Against Demolition Squad, the online flash game by Mirage Games that is spreading like wildfire over China. First appearing on the popular website 17173, it’s one of the most played online games.

The so-called “nail householders,” their houses left as lonely nails in the middle of already demolished ones, have to hire people to face the demolition team men, who are milling about to crash down the remaining squatters. There’s Mrs. and Grandpa Ding (Chinese for “nail”) and their six-member family fighting against the crew – with slippers, homemade tools and other scrappy objects – in order to keep their houses standing. What is unusual for a video game is that there are but a few chances to win: after strenuously fighting for six levels, the player hits the “survival level,” set up so that the player is all but doomed, something that rather closely resembles the game’s real life basis.

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Defending Culture and Democracy in Chinese Independent Documentaries

Monday, August 30th, 2010

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

The latest issue of Hong Kong-based Open Magazine features three articles on citizens’ documentary in Chinese civil rights movements. One of them, written by Teng Biao, who is a human rights lawyer in Beijing, has been translated and published at Interlocals.net. See original.

In the article, Teng gives a comprehensive overview of the civic documentary movement in China for the past few decades. While the facts are impressive in both volume and numbers, the ideas aren’t all new to us. He writes,

Information monopoly is designed to benefit those in power, while Citizens Documentary can eliminate the cover-ups in certain extent. Only a few documentaries can already make the dictatorship pay a huge price. One can imagine that with the expansion of the Civic Documentary campaign, covering up truth will be a futile and obsolete attempt. Till then, there should be a significant change in the mode of power operation. (Interlocals)

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“Alternative Realities:” China’s Digital Documentary Filmmakers

Monday, April 26th, 2010

1428 (dir. Du Haibin)

In the newest issue of RealTime Arts Magazine, there is a rousing article by Dan Edwards on the significance of digital independent filmmaking in China. Here’s the opening passage:

While China’s political system remains deeply authoritarian, the country’s overwhelming size and explosive growth have opened cavernous gaps in the government’s control of culture, through which a new generation of DV-wielding documentary filmmakers has climbed.

Edwards profiles films such as Hu Jie’s In Search of Lin Zhao’s Soul, Ou Ning’s Meishi Street, and Du Haibin’s 1428 (editor: The latter two are distributed by dGenerate Films). He also interviews three notable figures in the contemporary digital filmmaking scene: producer/journalist David Bandurski (Ghost Town), artist/filmmaker Ou Ning and filmmaker/journalist Hu Jie. Here are some choice quotes from each:

Bandurski: “I’ve never heard an independent filmmaker in China ask themselves, ‘Can I do this?… Independent filmmaking is the freest avenue of expression that exists in China today.”

Ou: “Before, history only had one version – by the Chinese Communist Party… Now with digital technology history has different versions.”

Hu: “I knew very little about the history of the 1950s and 60s… While making Lin Zhao I had the sense that I was feeling around in the dark. Then I found the door of history, opened it and walked through. There I found a lot of ridiculous, cruel stories that really shocked me, and that was the motivation to go further.”

Read the complete article at RealTime Arts.

Find out more about Meishi Street, 1428, and Ghost Town.

Chinese Avant-garde Shills for Prada: Is This the Future of Indie Filmmaking?

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Wee Ling Soh of the Shanghaist tipped us to “First Spring,” a nine minute video directed by avant garde filmmaker Yang Fudong (Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest) as an artsy promotional tie-in for Prada. Video after the break.

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Avatar Breaks Chinese Box Office Records — and Inspires Activists

Monday, January 18th, 2010

What do this:

4054823306_b56cb41c49

and this:

AMESDoc_MeishiStreet

have in common? Apparently, they are both images of urban gentrification in China.

The top image is from James Cameron’s Avatar, which recently set the opening-day box office record in China with 33 million yuan ($4.85 million US). The film is on track to take over the record for total gross of 460 million yuan ($67 million US) set just months ago by Roland Emmerich’s 2012, which itself had just beaten the 450 million yuan earned by Transformers 2: The Revenge of the Fallen. 2009 was indeed a record year at the Chinese box office, whose 6.2 billion yuan toppled the 2008 take by a staggering 43%. Chinese films got in on the action, with five domestic features placing among the 2008 top ten earning films. (Full list after the break).

It’s somewhat reassuring that some Chinese have taken some political activist inspiration from their mainstream entertainment. British news source The Independent reports that Avatar has been embraced by potential evictees of urban neighborhoods slated for redevelopment (such as new shopping centers that feature state-of-the art cineplexes showing, um, Avatar):

Residents of China’s “nail houses” – so named because they are the last hold-outs in areas flattened for development – have likened their plight to those of the alien Nai’vi race in the blockbuster, as too have villagers in Hong Kong who face eviction to make way for a high-speed railway line.

“I’m touched by how they protect their homeland,” 81-year-old Wong Kam-fook told the South China Morning Post, referring to the war the Na’vi wage in the film against the human invaders.

For a more realistic depiction of this plight, one might look at the source of the second image, Ou Ning‘s documentary Meishi Street, which shows ordinary citizens taking a stand against the planned destruction of their homes for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In order to widen traffic routes for the Olympic Games, the Beijing Municipal Government orders the demolition of entire neighborhoods. Given video cameras by the filmmakers, evictees shoot exclusive footage of the eviction process, adding vivid intimacy to their story.

Click here for more information on Meishi Street. Trailer of Meishi Street and the list of top 10 grossing films in China in 2009 after the break.

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“Skyscraping ambition:” The Shenzhen Biennale curated by Ou Ning

Monday, December 21st, 2009
Shenzhen Biennale (Photo Courtesy of BB News)

Shenzhen Biennale (Photo Courtesy of BB News)

We’re pleased to share this report on Shenzhen’s third Biennale of architecture, curated by Ou Ning. Among Ou Ning’s many accomplishments as an artist and activist, he’s the director of two dGenerate titles, Meishi Street and San Yuan Li.

From the report by World BB News:

The biennale, now in its third edition, is a government-sponsored attempt to establish one thing Shenzhen lacks: a cultural scene. The theme is city mobilisation, which chief curator Ou Ning – who lived here throughout the 1990s, when growth was so fast that the phrase “Shenzhen speed” was born – says is an experiment to unite citizens “in a time that lacks centralised force, spiritual solidarity and practical organisation”. While most architecture biennales are unappealing cocktails of dodgy architectural art and dense technical presentations, this one has a more popular touch. More than 60 installations by artists and architects occupy an underground hall at the civic centre, the massive public plaza above it, and various spots around the city.

Read the full report on the Biennale, with many vivid images included.

The Selling of Culture in China

Friday, December 18th, 2009
Zhao Dayong

Zhao Dayong

How China is using art (and artists) to sell itself to the world” is an informative and insightful article in The Star by Murray Whyte. It analyzes China’s recent boom in cultural and media industries and its discontents – a burgeoning scene of individual expression. dGenerate directors Ou Ning and Zhao Dayong and producer David Bandurski are featured in the article as prominent representatives of the alternative art scene.

For Whyte, China’s recent supports and displays of cultural development reflect the government’s deep desire to raise “soft power”– “the ability of a political body to get what it wants through cultural or ideological attraction”–in order to match its huge economic development. The efforts include the plans for new museums and “creative districts” nationwide, proliferation of a glossy magazine industry that embraces Western excess, participation in global cultural events such as the Frankfurt Book Fair, the induction of formerly underground filmmakers back into state-run studios, and the production of big-budget political blockbusters such as The Founding of a Republic.

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Meishi Street and San Yuan Li in Portland (OR)

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Anyone in the Portland, Oregon area has the chance to view two dGenerate films at the Portland Art Museum’s NW Film Center in the coming weeks. Ou Ning’s Meishi Street will be screening on Thursday, Nov. 19 at 7 pm and Ou Ning and Cao Fei’s San Yuan Li screens Saturday, Dec. 5 at 2 pm. Both of these films are part of the NW Film Center’s Lens on China II series, which they describe thusly:

Since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, China has undergone a series of profound, ever-accelerating transformations spurred by experiments with a market economy and a more open approach to foreign investment and external cultures. In the last decade the consequences of these changes have dramatically impacted China and its place in the world. Concurrent with the Portland Art Museum’s CHINA DESIGN NOW exhibition, the Northwest Film Center continues to explore the perspectives of Chinese and western filmmakers whose works reflect on the broad currents of contemporary change in Chinese society. As China’s past and future collide, the works by these media artists provide unique insight into the social and aesthetic confusions, obstacles, and opportunities being navigated in the interstices between history, daily reality, and the future’s promises.

Other films screening as part of this series include Jia Zhangke’s 24 City, Ning Ying’s I Love Beijing and Perpetual Motion, and Jennifer Baichwal’s Manufactured Landscapes.

More details can be found at the NW Film Center site.

Shelly on Film: What is a Chinese Film?

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

By Shelly Kraicer

San Yuan Li

San Yuan Li (dir. Ou Ning, 2003)

What is a Chinese film? Ever since I’ve started living and working in Beijing over six years ago, most serious discussions about Chinese cinema ultimately come down to this elemental question, either in its descriptive mode (what defines a Chinese film?) or in its more urgently prescriptive version (what should a Chinese film be?). Often, it’s filmmakers themselves who seem most anxious about the issue. Behind it lie several subsidiary anxieties: “What do Westerners want from Chinese films?”, “What’s my role in Chinese society?”, “Are films art, or commerce, or politics?”

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CinemaTalk: A Conversation with Chris Berry

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Chris Berry

dGenerate Films is pleased to introduce CinemaTalk, an ongoing series of conversations with esteemed scholars of Chinese cinema studies. These conversations will be presented on this site in audio podcast and/or text format. They are intended to help the Chinese cinema studies community keep abreast of the latest work being done in the field, as well as to learn what recent Chinese films are catching the attention of others. This series reflects our mission to bring valuable resources and foster community around the field of Chinese film studies.

For our first CinemaTalk, we spoke with Chris Berry, Professor of Film and Television Studies in the Department of Media and Communication at Goldsmiths, University of London. Some of Chris’ work includes:

  • Author, Cinema and the National: China on Screen (Columbia University Press and Hong Kong University Press, 2006) with Mary Farquhar
  • Author, Postsocialist Cinema in Post-Mao China: The Cultural Revolution after the Cultural Revolution (New York: Routledge, 2004)
  • Editor (with Ying Zhu), TV China (Indiana University Press, 2008)
  • Editor, Chinese Films in Focus II (British Film Institute, 2008)
  • Editor (with Feii Lu), Island on the Edge: Taiwan New Cinema and After (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2005)
  • Editor (with Fran Martin and Audrey Yue), Mobile Cultures: New Media and Queer Asia (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003)
  • Translator and Editor, Ni Zhen’s Memoirs from the Beijing Film Academy: The Origins of China’s Fifth Generation Filmmakers (Duke University Press, 2002)
  • Author, “Imaging the Globalized City: Rem Koolhaas, U-thèque, and the Pearl River Delta,” in Cinema at the City’s Edge, edited by Yomi Braester and James Tweedie (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, forthcoming), part of a series TransAsia: Screen Cultures, co-edited by Chris Berry and Koichi Iwabuchi

Kevin Lee, dGenerate’s VP of Programming of Education, spoke with Chris about various topics from his current work and areas of focus, to comparisons between contemporary Chinese cinema and the Fifth Generation filmmakers whom he helped to champion in the 1980s and 1990s, to which recent Chinese films that have excited him the most.

Play the Podcast

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Download it here (right-click to download). (File size: 28.7MB)

Full transcript follows after the break.

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