Posts Tagged ‘rotterdam’

CinemaTalk: Interview with Li Ning, Director of Tape

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Li Ning, director of Tape

Tape, a highly experimental documentary by performance artist, dancer and filmmaker Li Ning, made its European premiere last January at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. Since then it has screened at the MoMA Documentary Fortnight and won the Silver Award at the Yunnan Multicultural Visual Exhibitions, aka YunFest. The film makes its West Coast premiere at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts this Thursday April 7 as part of the series “Fearless: Chinese Independent Documentaries.”

The dGenerate catalog describes Tape as follows:

For five grueling years, Li Ning documents his struggle to achieve success as an avant-garde artist while contending with the pressures of modern life in China. He is caught between two families: his wife, son and mother, whom he can barely support; and his enthusiastic but disorganized guerilla dance troupe. Tape shatters documentary conventions, utilizing a variety of approaches, including guerilla documentary, experimental street video, even CGI.

dGenerate’s Kevin B. Lee interviewed Li Ning at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. The following is a transcript of the interview. Translation by Amy Yiran Xu and Isabella Tianzi Cai.

dGF: You were originally a dancer, sculptor and performance artist for many years. How did you begin to make videos? Tape was originally a dance performance piece. At what time did you decide to make Tape as a video?

Li Ning: It began in 2000. I owned a DV camera then. I used it to document my performances, with my troupe, and also our training. It started simple, and I didn’t expect myself to make a documentary. Kevin knows this, I feel strongly about Jinan. I have been seeing certain scenery and objects there for over 30 years. They have left a mark in my heart and in my head. I used this crappy camera and made my first film. It was an amateurish film, which was completed 10 years ago and lasted a little over 40 minutes. In my opinion, it was closely related to Tape. And at a deeper level it shares the same things with those in Tape, such as our human condition, our changing cityscape, the choices that each human being faces.

dGF: This concept of “tape,” how did you come up with the idea of it?

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Shelly on Film: A Verité Movie Star Charms Rotterdam Film Festival

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

By Shelly Kraicer

Xu Tong, Shelly Kraicer and Tang Xiaoyan at screening of Fortune Teller at Rotterdam (photo courtesy of Xu Tong)

This year’s Rotterdam Film Festival (IFFR) offered a slice of the best of Chinese indie, experimental, and near-indie cinema. Provocative films as usual, and some very special guests; more on that in a moment. Notable 2010 features like Li Hongqi’s Winter Vacation (Hanjia), Zhao Dayong’s The High Life (Xunhuan zuole), and Li Ruijun’s Old Donkey (Lao Lütou) were accompanied by one premiere: Black Blood (Hei xue), by Zhang Miaoyan, a brooding blood-transfusion AIDs drama whose gloomy predictability was vitiated by its strikingly monumentalist-minimalist photography. The Piano in a Factory (Gangde qin) married the quirky independent sensibility of director Zhang Meng with a modulated, elegiac tone that was mild enough for the China Film Bureau to condone. Li Ning brought his challenging hybrid performance piece/doc Tape (Jiaodai) to Europe.

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Chinese Films at Rotterdam Film Fest, Including Two dGenerate Titles

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Fortune Teller (dir. Xu Tong)

This year’s 40th edition of the Rotterdam International Film Festival has a particularly strong showing of Chinese films. Though none are competing for the prestigious Tiger award, there are plenty in the Bright Future section of emerging filmmakers, as well as a couple of programs specifically about China. But we are especially pleased to announced that two titles we distribute in North America will make their European premiere at Rotterdam. dGenerate’s Kevin B. Lee will be attending the festival; if you happen to be there and would like to meet Kevin or attend a screening, he can be reached at kevin *at* dgeneratefilms *dot* com.

Our films are:

Fortune Teller, dir. Xu Tong

Li Baicheng is a charismatic fortune teller who services a clientele of prostitutes and marginalized figures whose jobs, like his, are commonplace but technically illegal in China. He practices his ancient craft in a village near Beijing while taking care of his deaf and dumb wife Pearl, whom he had rescued from her family’s mistreatment. Winter brings a police crackdown on both fortune tellers and prostitutes, forcing Li and Pearl into temporary exile in his hometown, where he revisits old family demons. His humble story is told with chapter headings similar to Qing Dynasty popular fiction, as the film draws narrative complexity from China’s everyday life.

Cinerama 7 Tue 01 Feb 10:30
Cinerama 5 Fri 04 Feb 12:45

More details

Tape, dir. Li Ning

For five grueling years, Li Ning documents his struggle to achieve success as an avant-garde artist while contending with the pressures of modern life in China. He is caught between two families: his wife, son and mother, whom he can barely support; and his enthusiastic but disorganized guerilla dance troupe. Li’s chaotic life becomes inseparable from the act of taping it, as if his experiences can only make sense on screen. Tape shatters documentary conventions, utilizing a variety of approaches, including guerilla documentary, experimental street video, even CGI. Much like Jia Zhangke’s Platform, Tape captures a decade’s worth of artistic aspirations and failures, while breaking new ground in individual expression in China.

LV 6 Wed 02 Feb 12:00 tickets
LV 3 Fri 04 Feb 16:00

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In addition. Zhao Dayong (Ghost Town, Street Life) will screen his new documentary My Father’s House, as part of the Festival’s special Raiding Africa program. Inspired by the growing influence of China in some African countries, the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) asks seven filmmakers from South Africa, Cameroon, Uganda, Rwanda, Congo and Angola to make films in China. The African directors’ films will premiere, along with a contextual film program, during the Rotterdam’s 40th edition.

We hope to have more coverage of the festival in the days to come…

dGenerate Titles Fortune Teller, Tape to Screen at Rotterdam Film Festival

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Artist Li Ning performing "Tape"

The International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), one of the leading venues for global cutting-edge cinema, announced its Bright Future program of debut and second feature films by fresh filmmaking talent from around the world. Five Chinese titles are included in the lineup, including two represented by dGenerate Films: Fortune Teller by Xu Tong and Tape by Li Ning. dGenerate Films is the North American distributor of Fortune Teller and the international sales agent for Tape.

The IFFR runs from January 26-February 6, 2010 in Rotterdam. Both directors Xu Tong and Li Ning will be present at the festival. Screening dates and details will be announced later.

The full Competition lineup for the prestigious Tiger Award will be announced over the coming days. We expect more exciting titles from China to be announced, possibly featuring names familiar to the dGenerate catalog. Stay tuned.

China in Africa: Documentary on Al-Jazeera

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Al-Jazeera produced this interesting investigative piece on Chinese businessmen and migrants living and working in Senegal, provocativlely titled, “The Colony.”

It’s interesting to compare this take on overseas Chinese migration with a recent article in the New York Times about how tens of thousands of Chinese migrants have transformed the Italian city of Prato into a low-end textile and garment hub of Europe, with mixed-to-negative reactions by the Italian locals.

But for all the talk of how the impact of Chinese foreign commerce and migrant labor is being felt around the world, there is much-needed activity happening in the opposite direction, as China serves as a destination for both commercial and cultural exchange. (more…)

A Tour of China’s Only Independent Film School

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Li Xianting Film School's Ying Liang (left) and Zhu Rikun (right) with owner and daughter of their favorite restaurant in Songzhuang (photo by Gertjan Zuilhof)

Last month we reported that the International Film Festival Rotterdam launched “Raiding Africa,” an exciting program commissioning several African filmmakers to make new films in China. The IFFR enlisted the Li Xianting Film School to help initiate the African directors into the Chinese independent film scene. Located in Songzhuang on the outskirts of Beijing, Li Xianting Film School is the first film school for independent filmmakers in China,.

IFFR’s Gertjan Zuilhof, the organizer of the program, is providing ongoing updates on the project at his IFFR blog. His latest entry introduces the Li Xianting Film School, where important figures like Zhu Rikun and Ying Liang (whose films dGenerate distributes) are fostering the independent film movement in China through their screenings, events and educational programs.

We’ve visited Songzhuang on multiple occasions, and we’ve always meant to profile the Li Xianting Film School in depth (the closest we’ve come is Shelly Kraicer’s indispensible guide to the Chinese indie film scene). So it’s great that Zuilhof is bringing exposure to the Film School through both the Raiding Africa program and his blog. And it’s amusing to read Zuilhof’s observations on Songzhuang, a former farming town that has become a haven for Beijing artists, and has traded its acres of fields for newly-built galleries. Zuilhof quips: “They make modern art museums here like they are pizza huts.”

African Directors Film in China with Li Xianting Film School and Rotterdam Festival

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Portrait of Mozambique President Armando Guebuza in a Chinese restaurant (Photo: Ella Raidel, IFF Rotterdam)

The International Film Festival Rotterdam has announced an exciting new project where several African directors will make films in China. We find this a brilliant initiative to bridge two parts of the world that are developing complex new social and economic ties. Additionally, it’s wonderful that IFFR enlisted the Li Xianting Film School in Beijing, the first film school for independent filmmakers in China, to help initiate the African directors into the Chinese independent film scene. Among its faculty, the Li Xianting Film School features at least a couple of dGenerate directors such as Ying Liang and Yang Jin. This promises to be a wonderful opportunity of artistic and cross-cultural exchange.

The project has already kicked off with a blog by Rotterdam Festival programmer Gertjan Zuilhof, which will follow the project through its many stages. We’ll be keeping tabs on it to see how the participants are progressing.

The full press release from IFFR follows:

Inspired by the growing influence of China in some African countries, the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) asks seven filmmakers from South Africa, Cameroon, Uganda, Rwanda, Congo and Angola to make films in China. The African directors’ films will premiere, along with a contextual film program, during the Rotterdam’s 40th edition. The program, titled ‘Raiding Africa’, includes a film workshop produced by the IFFR in collaboration with the Li Xianting Film School in Beijing and supported by Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals Fund.

More after the break.

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Shelly on Film: The Twenty Minute Standout of Rotterdam

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

by Shelly Kraicer

Condolences (dir. Ying Liang)

I’ve always enjoyed attending the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), which perks up a dark and sleety Dutch mid-winter with what is quite possibly the world’s most creatively curated large-scale festival of art and experimental cinema. IFFR has always strongly supported Chinese language independent films. And films in Chinese usually do quite well there, having won the top prize, the Tiger Award, quite often in past few years (Flower in the Pocket, Malaysia, 2008; Love Conquers All, Malaysia, 2007; Walking on the Wild Side, 2006, China; The Missing, Taiwan, 2004; Suzhou River, China, 2000).

Even if this year’s lineup of new Chinese films might have been a bit less scintillating than usual (though standouts included Yang Heng’s Sun Spots in competition, Liu Jiayin’s Oxhide II, Lou Ye’s Spring Fever, and Xu Tong’s documentary Wheat Harvest), one short stood out: Ying Liang’s Condolences (Weiwen). And the IFFR jury recognized this: Condolences won one of three Tiger Awards for Short Film. It’s a particularly well-deserved prize, in my opinion: this 20 minute fiction short of Ying Liang’s is this gifted young Chinese director’s best work so far.

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Reviews from Rotterdam: Oxhide II and Sun Spots

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Oxhide II (dir. Liu Jiayin)

The International Film Festival Rotterdam concluded this past weekend; this year’s edition was of special interest to us, what with eighteen films by Chinese directors or with a Chinese theme. Two indie films in particular drew critical attention, much of which is summarized below.

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Ying Liang wins Rotterdam Tiger Award for New Short

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Condolences (dir. Ying Liang)We’re proud to announce that Ying Liang, whose films The Other Half and Taking Father Home are standouts of the dGenerate catalog, has another international award to add to his collection.

During the IFFR 2010 Awards Ceremony for Short Films on Monday, February 1, 2010 in festival location Rotterdamse Schouwburg, the award-winning short films of the 39th International Film Festival Rotterdam were announced. The three Tiger Awards for Short Film were granted to Wei Wen (Condolences) by Ying Liang (China), Atlantiques by Mati Diop (France/Senegal) and Wednesday Morning Two A.M. by Lewis Klahr (USA).

The film was even cited by film critic Neil Young in his top ten list for the 2000s in the Best Chinese Films of the 2000s Poll conducted by dGenerate.

The jury had this to say of Ying Liang’s new short in their award citation:

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