Posts Tagged ‘police’

The Outrageous Reality of Chinese Cops: Crime and Punishment

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

By Steve Erickson

Originally published on Fandor, where Crime and Punishment is available on streaming video.

Zhao Liang has distinguished himself as one of the fiercest of the Chinese documentarians who’ve emerged in the past ten years. His 2007 debut Crime and Punishment offers a dose of Zhao’s filmmaking at full force. At first glance, the film, which closely follows the lives of Chinese military police monitoring a North Korean border town, might bring to mind American reality shows like Cops and its ersatz offspring. But its sensibility couldn’t be more different. Zhao’s film emphasizes punishment more than crime: his cops, remarkable for their lack of media savvy, repeatedly beat subjects in front of his cameras. Unlike American reality TV, these incidents aren’t served to the viewer as exploitation passing as entertainment, but something more ethically committed and unnerving.

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The Vicious Circle of Justice: Zhao Liang’s Crime and Punishment

Thursday, January 13th, 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 November 4, 2010.

by Dan Edwards

Zhao Liang provided one of the most heartrending Chinese documentaries of recent times last year with Petition, an epic work about petitioners living on the fringes of China’s capital. It’s much rarer, however, to see stories about those enforcing the rules in the People’s Republic – the nature of Chinese state institutions means access is usually impossible. Which makes Zhao’s earlier film Crime and Punishment (Zui Yu Fa, 2007) all the more extraordinary, providing as it does an intimate snapshot of life inside a People’s Armed Police (PAP) station.

As Zhao explained in an interview earlier this year, he was only able to gain access to the station, located on the Chinese-Korean border in the remote northeast, because “these people are politically more naive and less politically savvy than their Beijing counterparts.” Zhao does not just exploit the officers’ naivety to expose their petty abuses of power however – the uniformed community provides a microcosm of the broader social structures informing the exercise of state power in contemporary China.

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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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Chinese Law Enforcement Brings Out Its Feminine Side

Monday, January 10th, 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.

By Ariella Tai

Photo by Du Bin for The New York Times

Across China, the New York Times reports, governments have taken a rather blunt approach towards building a better public image for their urban law enforcers: hiring prettier ones. Chengguan, a special class of police, have become known for their willingness to utilize clubbing, thrashing and other forms of abuse in their efforts to discipline and maintain social order in recent years. In an attempt to improve this poor public image for the force, district officials in Chengdu have called for females between the ages of 18-22, with good figures and “orderly facial features” to serve, essentially, as decorations, or “flower vases…[with] other responsibilities]” according to an unnamed official. These female officers enjoy a limited tenure that ends at age 26, and lack even the power to confiscate the goods of the peddlers they are daily responsible for chasing into their assigned alleyways. Instead they serve in a supporting capacity, able only to threaten offenders with a report to their male supervisor.

This absurd aspect to Chinese law enforcement recalls Zhao Liang’s 2007 documentary, Crime and Punishment, which documents the daily lives of underworked military police on the border of North Korea. During an unforgiving winter, officers rigidly enforce law and order. They raid a private residence to bust an illegal mahjong game, casually abuse a pickpocket accused of throwing away evidence, and berate a confession out of a scrap collector working without a permit. The police switch between precise investigative procedure, explosions of violent fury, and moments of comic ineptitude, all captured incredibly before the camera.

We are proud to announce that Crime and Punishment will be presented on the big screen at the Anthology Film Archives. There will be showings Jan 13 at 6:45 & 9:15, and then one each on Sat and Sun, Jan 15 & 16 at 4:00.

Check here for more details. View a trailer below.

The Vicious Circle of Justice: Zhao Liang’s Crime and Punishment

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

by Dan Edwards

Zhao Liang provided one of the most heartrending Chinese documentaries of recent times last year with Petition, an epic work about petitioners living on the fringes of China’s capital. It’s much rarer, however, to see stories about those enforcing the rules in the People’s Republic – the nature of Chinese state institutions means access is usually impossible. Which makes Zhao’s earlier film Crime and Punishment (Zui Yu Fa, 2007) all the more extraordinary, providing as it does an intimate snapshot of life inside a People’s Armed Police (PAP) station.

As Zhao explained in an interview earlier this year, he was only able to gain access to the station, located on the Chinese-Korean border in the remote northeast, because “these people are politically more naive and less politically savvy than their Beijing counterparts.” Zhao does not just exploit the officers’ naivety to expose their petty abuses of power however – the uniformed community provides a microcosm of the broader social structures informing the exercise of state power in contemporary China.

(more…)

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?

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Films on Crime in China Now Available: Crime and Punishment and Using

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

dGenerate Films is proud to announce that Crime and Punishment by Zhao Liang and Using by Zhou Hao, two important works from China’s contemporary independent documentary scene,are now available for institutional purchase in the US as part of the dGenerate Films catalog. Together, these two films offer a candid, revealing look at two facets of crime and law enforcement in China: the interrogation tactics of military police in Northeast China, and the lives of drug addicts in Guangzhou.

Crime and Punishment (Zui Yu Fa), directed by Zhao Liang

Crime and Punishment (dir. Zhao Liang)

Amidst the barren wintry landscape of Northeast China, Chinese military police officers rigidly enforce law and order in an impoverished mountain town. They raid a private residence to bust an illegal mahjong game, casually abuse a pickpocket accused of throwing away evidence, and berate a confession out of a scrap collector working without a permit. The police switch between precise investigative procedure, explosions of violent fury, and moments of comic ineptitude, all captured incredibly before the camera.

A prime example of how independent documentaries are on the vanguard of Chinese cinema, Crime and Punishment is an unprecedented look at the everyday workings of law enforcement in the world’s largest authoritarian society. With penetrating camerawork, Zhao Liang (Petition, 2009 Cannes Film Festival) patiently reveals the methods police use to interrogate and coerce suspects to confess crimes – and the consequences when such techniques backfire. With a cold, objective eye that depicts reality in great detail while withholding judgment, “Zhao’s artistry is instantly apparent.” (Robert Koehler, Variety)

In the January 2010 issue of China Perspectives, Jie Li of Harvard University has a lengthy appreciation of Zhao Liang’s documentaries Crime and Punishment and Petition. Here is an excerpt on Crime and Punishment:

With patient long takes and an ambivalent gaze that is in turn complicit, compassionate, or critical, Crime and Punishment shows us the human beings in military uniforms – their capacity for rage, sympathy, and fear – as well as how the power authorised by these uniforms might dehumanise – through violence and humiliation – not only those suspected to be criminals but also the police officers themselves. Apart from discipline and punishment, much police power resides with surveillance, but a sustained look at the other can also generate empathetic recognition, and returning the gaze may well be the first step for the powerless to empower themselves.

Film Clip:

Using (Long Ge), directed by Zhou Hao

Using (dir. Zhou Hao)

For three years, filmmaker Zhou Hao chronicled the lives of Long and Jun, a couple struggling with heroin addiction in Guangzhou. Zhou captures Chinese junkie subculture, its members languishing in a slum flophouse, the equivalent of a modern day opium den. When Long is hospitalized after a failed robbery, Zhou speaks out from behind the camera to intervene. Still, Long and Jun persist, soon dealing drugs full-time to make ends meet. As the couple increasingly offers lies for answers, Zhou must confront his ethical responsibilities to them, as a friend and a documentarian.

Using probes a dark, cruel reality of contemporary Chinese society that has rarely been seen by any audience. Addicts disclose techniques for dealing with police, confronting sham suppliers and staying high throughout the day. Zhou’s unflinching depiction of his friends’ repeated attempts to quit blurs the line between filmmaker and subject, and raises provocative questions about the ways in which each uses the other.

Film Clips: