Posts Tagged ‘petition’

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.

Zhao Liang’s Beijing Landscape Exhibition, now through December 7

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Poster for Beijing Landscape exhibition (click to englarge)

By Sara Beretta

In depicting the instability of China’s social environment, the work of Zhao Liang is a wake-up call to audiences. Zhao reflects his perspective through a range of visual approaches – photography, video and documentary – offering a valuable space for self-reflection and awareness. His gaze is elegant and artistic, gently detached yet sharply observant in picturing daily contradictions and human tragedies, offering a poetic reflection that shades into social criticism.

All of this makes his solo exhibition Beijing Landscape (Beijing Shanshui) a must-see event. Beijing Landscape, which runs from November 12 to December 7, is hosted at Studio-X, in partnership with Three Shadows Photography Center. Zhao’s 25-minute video Narrative Landscape, along with selected works from his previous Water Series (2004-2008) and Beijing Green Series (2004 – 2007) juxtapose tradition and modernity, both in nature and aesthetics, not transcending the commonplace but offering original and quiet introspection.

Zhao’s solo show also features his documentaries, starting with Crime and Punishment (2007, distributed by dGenerate). Conflicts between individuals, authority, state, society and environment flow throughout Zhao’s narrative. There’s also the masterpiece Petition, a 12-year project that intimately and dramatically shows the lives of petitioners in Beijing. Zhao’s committed approach immerses us in the petitioner’s plight, implying that anyone is potentially a victim of the dysfunctions of the social institutions governing China. As Zhao himself becomes an active participant in his own film, Petition demonstrates Judith Butler’s theory of how social reality is not a given but continually created as an illusion “through language, gesture, and all manner of symbolic social sign.” Zhao points out the oppressive contradictions governing China’s society, while depicting a humanist struggle whose pain is universally recogniziable.

Sara Beretta is an anthropologist and PhD student at Milan University, researching Chinese independent cinema and visual production.

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

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

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.

Question: Could you explain why you made the film?

Zhao: It actually happened by chance. I was actually doing another project in 2004 somewhere around the China-North Korea border. I was there actually through connection. I was trying to document the interactions between the Chinese police officers and also the people from across the border, the whole dynamic between the border police and how they deal with people from the other side of the border. And after I got there, I realized that they were not dealing with that issue any more. Instead, I got the chance to observe their daily lives and found them fascinating. So I decided to change that particular project and make something that could actually document their daily life.

Question: I found it really interesting that the soldiers actually allowed themselves to be filmed. I just wonder how that came about and what your sense was. Did they see the problem of what was happening and want it to be made available to the public?


RealTime Reviews Films by dGenerate Directors at HKIFF

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

The High Life (dir. Zhao Dayong)

by Isabella Tianzi Cai

RealTime Arts, Australia’s critical guide to contemporary international arts, recently reviewed several films from the 34th Hong Kong International Film Festival – several by directors with films distributed by dGenerate.

In the Asian Digital Competition section of HKIFF, the awards went to Zhao Dayong’s The High Life and Yang Heng’s Sun Spots. RealTime’s Mike Walsh comments on the former, “Characters enter and then leave the narrative, frustrating our attempt to approach contemporary China in exclusively personal terms. It is worth comparing this to the structure of Zhao’s previous documentary Ghost Town which is divided into three parts, each focusing on a different character.” dGenerate Films distributes Ghost Town as well as Zhao’s debut feature Street Life (coming soon), and Yang Heng’s Betelnut.

In the same article, Walsh also highly commends Liu Jiayin’s mesmerizing documentary Oxhide II, the sequel to Oxhide (distributed by dGenerate). He writes,


Banned Chinese Independent Documentaries Shine Overseas

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Director Ai Xiaoming

The Epoch Times has an informative article by Liang Zhen on Chinese independent documentaries, published on the heels of two film festivals that spotlighted these films: the Hong Kong International Film Festival and the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, the latter of which was programmed by Shelly Kraicer. The article describes several recent important films from the independent documentary movement in China: Petition by Zhao Liang, Karamay by Xu Xin, and works by Hu Jie and Ai Xiaoming. Ai Xiaoming gives a concluding quote attesting to the mission of many of these filmmakers:

“Today’s China is losing an important part – memory. This is how authorities maintain an autocratic ruling: They take away history and thus take away common sense, morals, and many other things,” she said. “If we persistently record history over the past 10 years, we will be able to see the changes in the decade. We can save this history for future generations.”

Read the full article: (in English) (in Chinese)

Zhao Liang’s Petition screening at Migrating Forms Festival

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Petition (dir. Zhao Liang)

As this year’s Cannes Film Festival gets into gear this weekend, one of the standout films from last year’s festival will make its way to New York City for a special screening. Petition, the acclaimed documentary by Zhao Liang, will screen Sunday, May 16 at 6:15 PM at Anthology Film Archives as part of the Migrating Forms Festival.

From the program description (taken from the Harvard Film Archive):

“The dysfunctional Chinese court system allows citizens with grievances against their local governments to petition the court to clear or correct their record. Yet in order to do so, the petitioners must travel to Beijing to file paperwork and wait an indefinite period to plead their case. The vast majority of petitioners are impoverished villagers who travel far to the capital and typically end up waiting desperately in decrepit shantytowns for their cases to be settled, often pressured by hired thugs to return home. Following the saga of a group of petitioners over the years of 1996 and 2008, Petition unfolds like a novel by Zola or Dickens. Unwilling to accept defeat and seemingly unable to do anything but wait, the petitioners enter a strange and often terrifying zone, gradually losing touch with family and friends back home and with the cruel reality of their situation.”

dGenerate Films is proud to distribute Zhao Liang’s previous film Crime and Punishment, now available for pre-order. Find out more.

Three dGenerate Directors Win at Hong Kong Film Festival

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Awards ceremony at Hong Kong International Film Festival (photo courtesy Lantern Films)

The Hong Kong International Film Festival gave out its awards Tuesday night, and to our delight, four of the nine awards were given to filmmakers repped by dGenerate. Yang Heng (director of Betelnut) took home the Golden Digital Award in the Asian Digital Competition for his new film Sun Spots, while Zhao Liang (Crime and Punishment) won the Humanitarian Award for his stunning documentary Petition. But the night belonged to Zhao Dayong (Ghost Town, Street Life), whose new film The High Life nabbed two awards – the FIRPRESCI Critics’ Jury Prize and the Silver Award in the Asian Digital Competition.

Full coverage of the awards can be found at The Hollywood Reporter.

See if you can catch Zhao Dayong’s previous feature Ghost Town, which is touring the US through April at these venues. Read some reviews of this film.

Yang Heng’s previous feature Betelnut is available at dGenerate Films. Find out more about his prizewinning debut.

Zhao Liang’s eye-opening documentary Crime and Punishment is currently available for non-theatrical exhibition, and will be available on DVD in the summer.

Hail! Hail! Hail! The State of Chinese Cinema, Part Three

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

This is the second part of a three-part essay by Zhang Xianmin on the state of contemporary Chinese cinema. Read Parts One and Two.

Translation by Yuqian Yan

IV. New Theaters

Another aspect of capital operation is the development of new theaters and their surroundings. A significant trend is that after international capital was fully withdrawn from China due to policy reasons, the newly raised major players are all domestic partnerships.

Megabox Sanlitun Theater, Beijing

Withdrawn capital is mainly from the States and Europe, but those from Hong Kong or Korea are allowed to stay. Even though according to government policy, Hong Kong and Korean capital can only account for a small proportion, their existence allows theaters to maintain their original status as international chain brands. For example, the new theater built in the middle of Sanlitun, Beijing uses a Korean theater brand. One reason is that Hong Kong and Korean investors sometimes agree to disguise international capital under the name of domestic capital through an intermediary, whereas European and American investors always hesitate to make such a suspicious deal. For instance, Warner has stopped expanding its business in China for years. But European and American giants are just waiting for new policies that will offer better opportunities. In the long run, more than half of the Chinese theaters will be controlled by American capital in the future.


Zhao Liang interviewed about Petition

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Zhao Liang

To commemorate Zhao Liang’s visit to the United States, we have translated a lengthy interview with Zhao, originally published in the Chinese magazine Liang You. Translation by Yuqian Yan:

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.”


Documentary master Zhao Liang at Minneapolis (tonight!), Boston and New York (next week!)

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Petition (dir. Zhao Liang)

In the recent Top Ten Chinese Films of the 2000s poll, one of the top-ranked documentaries was Zhao Liang’s Petition: The Court of the Complainants. A pretty impressive showing, given that the film was just released last year and has been seen by relatively few people, even in Chinese cinema circles. Tonight folks in Minneapolis will have a chance to see what some are calling the most exciting Chinese documentary since West of the Tracks.

Zhao Liang will be visiting the Walker Art Center this weekend to present his films Petition and Crime and Punishment. Then he will visit the East Cost to present his work at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University, the Harvard Film Archive, the China Institute in New York, and the Center of Religion and Media at New York University.

Information on his films and a full schedule of his programs after the break.