Posts Tagged ‘petition’

PBS “POV” Lists Essential Documentaries About China

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Disorder (dir. Huang Weikai) tied for most mentions in PBS' poll of essential documentaries about China

Last month the acclaimed documentary Last Train Home, about migrant laborers in China, made its US television premiere as part of the POV series on PBS. As part of the film’s online promotional efforts, POV polled several filmmakers and experts in Chinese cinema to recommend top documentaries and features about China. We were pleased to see that Disorder tied for most mentions among all films, including a recommendation by Last Train Home director Fan Lixin. Fan writes of Disorder: “A powerful and utterly honest mishmash of the most bizarre images from contemporary Chinese society, with an almost cynical sarcasm. I’ve never seen anything quite like it!”

Other documentaries receiving multiple recommendations: Petition by Zhao Liang, whose Crime and Punishment is distributed by dGenerate, and Up the Yangtze by Yung Chang (who also took part in the poll). Strangely, Blind Shaft also tied for most mentions in this “documentary” poll, even though it is a narrative feature.

Not surprisingly, Jia Zhangke was the most recommended filmmaker, with six mentions spread across five titles. His documentary Dong is distributed by dGenerate.

All the recommendations can be found at the POV website on PBS.

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

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Zhao Liang

Zhao Liang graduated from China’s Central Academy of Drama in 1985. He supported himself as a photographer while working on his early documentaries. His first feature documentary Crime and Punishment won the Best Documentary award at the Festival des Trois Continents. Zhao’s 2009 documentary Petition: The Court of the Complainants premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. His 2011 film Together is about discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS in China and was commissioned by the Ministry of Health.


FILMOGRAPHY

2011 Together

2009 Petition

2007 Crime and Punishment

2006 Farewell Yuanmingyuan

2005 Return to the Border

2004 City Scene

2001 Paper Airplane

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.

“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.

Zhao Liang (Petition, Crime and Punishment) directs AIDS documentary in China

Friday, January 14th, 2011

A scene from Together (dir. Zhao Liang)

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.

Dan Edwards reports:

Zhao Liang is undoubtedly one of the leading lights of the independent Chinese documentary scene, and in the past I’ve written about his films Petition and Crime and Punishment… I was surprised to hear… that Zhao had just completed a film about HIV in China that had been passed for official release.

Indeed it is remarkable that the director of probing documentaries depicting Chinese police interrogation tactics on the North Korean border and the suppression of petitioners in the capital of Beijing now has the opportunity to make a film that can screen publicly in China. Zhao’s new film Together was able to be made as a companion piece Life Is a Miracle, a mainstream feature about a couple suffering from an illness suggesting HIV, with megastars Zhang Ziyi and Aaron Kwok directed by Gu Changwei. Together documents Zhao’s efforts to reach out to the community of HIV carriers and enlist several to appear in Gu’s film. Zhao’s film even has mainstream coverage in the Chinese press, as evidenced by this feature in China Daily.

Dan Edwards gives his first impressions of the film, plus an interview with Zhao Liang, on his site Screening China. Zhao reflects:

Before the shoot I had no knowledge at all of HIV – I gradually learned through preparing and shooting the film. Actually the Chinese are a very tolerant people. The discrimination is because people lack knowledge and mainstream media stigmatises the disease.

Read more at Screening China.

Zhao Liang Interviewed on Petition

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.

Zhao Liang

This translated interview was first published Feburary 1, 2010 to commemorate Zhao Liang’s visit to the United States. The interview was originally published in the Chinese magazine Liang You. Translation by Yuqian Yan:

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In 1996, when Jia Zhangke picked up a 16mm camera to film his fellow townsmen in Linfen, Zhao Liang, who used to live across the corridor to Jia at Beijing Film Academy, held the camera to record a special group of people – petitioners near Beijing South Railway Station.

Twelve years later Jia Zhangke has shifted his early interest in documentary to a recent martial art film project, and he even became a jury chairman at the Cannes Film Festival, while Zhao Liang eventually finished his 12-year project Petition, and was invited to a special screening at Cannes. Therefore he’s still a novice at Cannes. “Never mind. It’s quite common for a forty or fifty-year-old to be called a young director.”

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Reviews Are In: Unanimous Praise for Crime and Punishment and Petition, Now Playing in New York

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Petition (dir. Zhao Liang)

Today is the first day of screenings for the indomitable Zhao Liang at Anthology Film Archives, and we couldn’t be happier with the press coverage so far. Here are some choice clips from reviews by New York critics for Zhao’s films Crime and Punishment (opening tonight at 6 and 9; additional screenings Saturday and Sunday) and Petition (starting tomorrow and screening daily at 6:30 and 9:30). More reviews and directions to Anthology after the break.

EMERGING FROM ARDUOUS, dangerous, in-the-trenches work, Chinese filmmaker Zhao Liang‘s documentary investigations open onto the profound problems of a country often kept hidden by authorities. His interest is in the banal mechanics of systematic oppression: His remarkable debut Crime and Punishment (2007), for instance, provides a rare look into the People’s Armed Police, a branch of law enforcement similar to the military in its regimented lifestyle and coldly abusive administration of “justice.”

- Michael Joshua Rowin, ArtForum

Crime and Punishment (2007) follows the paramilitary People’s Armed Police on the beat, gaining extraordinary access to a station in the rugged, frigid Northeast, on the North Korean border. The staff of young officers – pettily prideful, swimming in their uniforms – is naive enough not to self-censor for the camera. They show as bullies, incompetent if not malicious, with their lone investigative technique a face-slap.

- Nick Pinkerton, The Village Voice

Although it has its clear literary antecedents in Kafka and Bleak House, Petition‘s look at the arbitrary and corrupt nature of authority is of a specifically Chinese variety – not to mention the authentic stuff of actuality. A case of life imitating art – or rather art documenting life imitating art – Zhao Liang’s non-fiction film continues the director’s dissection of petty Sino-officialdom begun in his first film, Crime and Punishment. While that movie recorded the power abuses of soldiers policing the Chinese-North Korean border, Zhao’s latest film moves to Beijing to document the bureaucratic nightmare known as the petition system.

- Andrew Schenker, The L Magazine

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CinemaTalk: Conversation with Zhao Liang, director of Crime and Punishment and Petition

Wednesday, January 12th, 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.

This article was originally published August 17, 2010.

By Kevin B. Lee

Zhao Liang

Zhao Liang is one of China’s leading artists working in video, photography and documentary film. His work examines both rural and urban realities, fast-paced progress and nostalgia, the nature of politics, and the beauty of the natural world. He clearly connects with the underprivileged, whom he considers to be the engine of society, and homes in on the everyday aspects of life ignored by public institutions. He has directed two feature documentaries, Crime and Punishment and Petition, and his videos, photos and installations have been exhibited around the world.

To commemorate dGenerate Films’ release of Crime and Punishment, what follows is a transcript from Zhao Liang’s audience Q&A following a screening of the film at the China Institute on Feburary 5, 2010. Additionally, there are excerpts from a supplementary interview with Zhao conducted by dGenerate Films’ Kevin B. Lee.

Thanks to Isabella Tianzi Cai, Vincent Cheng and Yuqian Yan for their translation of the interviews.

1. From the audience Q&A following the China Institute screening of Crime and Punishment:

Question: Could you say something about how this film has been distributed in China and how it’s been received? Has it been screened in theaters? Has it been on the television as well as on the web?

Zhao: In China, this film was screened once in Beijing Independent Film Festival. Other than that, very rarely have people had the opportunity to see films like this, unless they go to certain art galleries where they might have such films. So it is definitely hard to have distribution done in China. Right now dGenerate Films Inc. in the United States is helping me distribute it here.

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Zhao Liang’s Petition and Crime and Punishment Screening at Anthology Film Archives Next Week

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

We’re excited that the work of one of the preeminent filmmakers in China, Zhao Liang, will be showcased next week at the Anthology Film Archives in New York City. Zhao’s acclaimed, independently-produced documentaries Petition and Crime and Punishment will enjoy a week of screenings starting Thursday January 13 through Thursday, January 20. Screening details below, as well as on the dGenerate Films event page.

“Zhao Liang captures those sides of life that are ignored by official politics and, in so doing, acts as a chronicler of everyday life. Futility, running idle, stubbornness, and stamina are motifs shared by all of his films, while the dramatic consequences of the rapid economic and structural transformation in China constitute the continuous backdrop to his work.” (Quoted from the catalogue of the 2008 Berlin Biennial)

Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Avenue
New York, NY

Tickets may be purchased at the box office on date of screening.

Details on each film and screening times after the break.
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