Posts Tagged ‘songzhuang’

Shelly on Film: Fall Festival Report, Part One: Keeping Independence in Beijing

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

By Shelly Kraicer

Just having a party: This year's Beijing International Film Festival had to take a more casual tone. (photo: ArtInfo)

I’m often asked how it is that I keep track of new Chinese independent films. One answer: just be in China for a few weeks in October and November. The film festival season here is packed right now. Two major indie film festivals have just concluded: the 6th Beijing Independent Film Festival (BIFF, in the Beijing exurb of Songzhuang) and the 8th China Independent Film Festival (in Nanjing). In Beijing itself, we’ve had the 4th First Film Festival (an international festival for films by first-time directors) at various campuses in China including Peking University, and the 6th Chinese Young Generation Film Forum. Coming up is the 5th Chongqing Independent Film and Video Festival (CIFVF).

That’s a lot of films and festivals. Of course there is substantial overlap, especially between the three main indie film festivals (BIFF, CIFF, CIFVF). BIFF and CIFF each had its own issues this year: external and internal conflict that showed just how much pressure independent filmmakers are under in China at the moment. These conflicts, which I’ll describe below, also demonstrated the urgency with which these filmmakers conceive of their practice, their autonomy, their mission, and their very existence.

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Accessing the Everyday: Report From Reel China #2

Monday, December 13th, 2010

1428 (dir. Du Haibin)

This week we are spotlighting the Reel China Documentary Biennial, which held its Fifth edition last October with a showcase of nine recent documentaries produced by independent filmmakers in China. To commemorate the event, we are posting a handful of reports by attendees of the festival. Be sure to read the first report previously published, “Absurdity, Art and Life on Tape” by Isabella Tianzi Cai.

Accessing the Everyday

By Carol Wang

How does one access the everyday? NYU’s Reel China Documentary Biennial offered an opportunity to consider this question through a selection of contemporary documentaries from independent Chinese filmmakers. The festival began with Du Haibin’s 1428, which documents the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in a cinéma-vérité style. Du, initially arriving on the scene in Beichuan ten days after the quake, captures the images and narratives of a region reduced to rubble. A woman talks about her lost children while doing laundry, a family searches through an empty but intact dormitory for a missing son, and men duck under a crane to grab steel rods from a building site. A young unkempt man, wearing just an ill-fitting winter army coat, ambles across the frame and gazes intently into the camera with a vacant look. There is a considerable amount of news footage available from the days and weeks immediately following the earthquake; much of it is urgent, fast-paced, and sensationalistic. 1428 offers something more understated: a slower tempo, a measure of patience which seems to demonstrate the filmmaker’s concern for his subjects. Despite the abnormalities that define the lives of these individuals, there is very little drama. Real time, when transposed onto the screen, sometimes appears excruciatingly slow.

Du returns six months later to continue filming. It’s winter now, but many are still living in makeshift tent shelters, and continue to rely on government handouts to meet their daily needs. Some, though, have attempted to make their own living – the butcher trucks slabs of meat to the lot where government distributions take place, and teenagers are hawking DVDs and photos of the Beichuan disaster zone to tourists. Du plays an unexpected role here: In response to a question from a tourist, “Is the DVD okay?,” the vendor responds, “Of course, this is the Disaster Zone. If it’s no good, you can bring it back. Look, the media is documenting this” [paraphrased] – and the vendor gestures at Du’s camera, the implication being that the camera is somehow representative of officialdom. Viewers are also implicated, because we too are watching a DVD about the disaster zone.

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Lineup for the Fifth Beijing Independent Film Festival

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

The 5th Beijing Film Festival is taking place from October 1 to 7 this year. It is organized by the Li Xianting Film Fund. The event will take place at Songzhuang Art Center in the outskirts of Beijing.

A full list of filmmakers and films screening in their respective categories follows after the break.
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Shelly on Film: From Buenos Aires to Beijing

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Cinema

I was able to attend two events last month that showcased the strength, diversity, and vitality of new independent documentaries from China. The first, at BAFICI, the Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Cinema, was a section on recent Chinese independent docs that I curated for the festival. Intended as an abbreviated look back at the past 2 years or so of Chinese indies, I selected eight films (but could easily have chosen twenty) that represented different directions in what I called “radical” documentary filmmaking (using “radical” as broadly defined, in form or in content) in China today:

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