Posts Tagged ‘vancouver international film festival’

Shelly on Film: Chinese Selections for the 2011 Vancouver Film Fest

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

By Shelly Kraicer

Fan Bingbing in "Buddha Mountain," one of several films directed by Chinese women directors at Vancouver International Film Festival

I’ve chosen 22 films for this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival (September 28 – October 14 2011), 17 feature films, 2 medium length fiction films and 3 short films. My usual beat is films from Chinese speaking territories (this year: mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Malaysia).

The films are listed below, with commentary that I’ve written for the VIFF programme catalogue. I’d like to point out a few things about the selection. I’m particularly pleased to have chosen films by seven Chinese-speaking women filmmakers this year: seven out of twenty is not a bad ratio, I think, and speaks to the increased opportunities for young independent filmmakers in Hong Kong and Taiwan (see Heiward Mak, Mo Lai, Chen Chiu-ling, and Jessey Tsang below), to make fine work. They follow in the footsteps of veterans like Ann Hui (A Simple Life) and younger established filmmakers like Li Yu (Buddha Mountain).

The continued vitality of the mainland Chinese independent documentary sector is also evidenced by my selection for VIFF, with four powerful indie docs in this year’s programme: Shattered, Apuda, Are We Really So Far From A Madhouse, and Bachelor Mountain. If strictly independent feature film making (i.e. Films that bypass the censorship system) isn’t looking at its strongest this year (with notable exceptions like Pema Tseden’s Old Dog and Zou Peng’s Sauna On Moon), then the fascinating cross-over space populated by films of independent spirit who do manage to get the Film Bureau’s approval seems more vital this year than ever (see Buddha Mountain, Mr. Tree, Here There, The Sword Identity).

In other territories, Taiwan’s blockbuster Seediq Bale is complex and troubling epic, and despite (or because of?) this, is on track to become the biggest blockbuster hit in Taiwanese film history. And Hong Kong’s sole remaining resident master “local” filmmaker Johnnie To has come up with a personal / political work (Life Without Principle) that revises the terms of his art (no guns, no fights) while intensifying the power of his social critique.

Full list of films after the break.

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Jia Zhangke on “Bull—-” Patriotism, Li Hongqi, Dragons and Tigers: New Cinema-Scope

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Jia Zhangke

The new issue of Cinema Scope magazine has a heavy dose of Chinese cinema coverage.

In the magazine, Jia Zhangke, whose most recent film is the documentary on Shanghai I Wish I Knew, talks about disturbing behavior he has witnessed by Chinese audience members at international festivals in an essay titled “On the Bullshit Logic of Patriotism:”

A woman, about 20 years old and rather timid in aspect, addressed me in the lobby: “Director, I would like to ask you a question that won’t make you happy. Why do you want to shoot such a filthy-looking Shanghai and such politicized characters for the benefit of Westerners?” I replied: “I’m shooting the real Shanghai. Peyond Pudong and Huaihai Road, Shanghai also has industrial areas clustered on both banks of Suzhou River; it has small, narrow alleyways in the southern part of the city. This is what life looks like here. This is what Shanghai looks like.” The woman suddenly became angry. “So, haven’t you taken into consideration how your film will look to foreigners who watch it? How it will influence their impressions of Shanghai and of China? How it will even influence foreigners’ confidence in investing in China?” I also go angry. “What’s the point of worrying so much about foreigners? Should we ignore what actually exists just for the sake of a bit of foreign investment, for the sake of whatever impressions foreigners might derive of China? The vast majority of china’s 1.3 billion people still live in the same conditions of poverty that they always have. How can we ignore this?”

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Berenice Reynaud Spotlights Six Chinese Films at Vancouver

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Thomas Mao (dir. Zhu Wen)

Judging by the extensive coverage of Chinese films at the Vancouver International Film Festival, one can conclude that it is one of the key venues to see the best of Chinese cinema outside of China. We’ve already pointed to reports by VIFF Dragons and Tigers programmer Shelly Kraicer, Film Comment’s Robert Koehler and MUBI’s Daniel Kasman. In the latest issue of Senses of Cinema, Berenice Reynaud offers an in-depth take on half a dozen Chinese-language titles, among many other films reviewed from the festival. Some excerpts:

On Li Hongqi’s Winter Vacation: “Li alternates wordless, rigorously composed scenes with instances of sparse dialogue, a Beckett-like hollowing of everyday platitudes.”

On Zhu Wen’s Thomas Mao: “Another scintillating example of neo-Chinese wit.”

On Jia Zhangke’s I Wish I Knew: “Old Shanghai is disappearing in the wake of unprecedented urban destruction (a lot of it caused by the World Expo itself); I Wish I Knew captures it as a dream, a memory, a flow of cinematic images that are as fluid and immaterial as the two rivers that run through it.”

On Hao Jie’s Single Man: “Visceral, off-colour, generous to a fault, Hao Jie’s Guanggun (Single Man) is one of the most exciting filmmaking debuts in years.”

On Zhao Dayong’s The High Life: “Zhao plays with our narrative expectations, blurring the lines between fiction and self-representation.”

On Xu Tong’s Fortune Teller: “Following Li and Little Pearl on the back alleys and dusty roads of rural China, Xu – whose first film, Mai shou (Wheat Harvest, 2008) was the controversial portrait of a lower class prostitute leading a double life – casts an unsentimental gaze at these humble lives that the “new and harmonious society” would like to keep under the rug.”

Reynaud concludes of the latter three films:

During the Mao years, conformity was the norm. Now the powers-that-be want to transform the citizens into quiet, obedient consumers. Films such as Single Man, High Life or Fortune Teller outline the gap between these grand plans and the way people live, point out the heightened contradictions of modernisation. Whether they resort to fictionalisation or experimental techniques, they manage to capture something of this reality that Lacan perceived as left over between the symbolic (the laws) and the imaginary (the utopias of socialism or free market).

Read Reynaud’s complete festival report at Senses of Cinema.

Film Comment Spotlights Chinese Indie Films from Vancouver Film Fest

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Rumination (dir. Xu Ruotao)

Over at Film Comment, critic Robert Koehler zeroes in on the Dragons and Tigers showcase of Asian Cinema at the Vancouver International Film Festival, programmed by Tony Rayns and Shelly Kraicer. He devotes special attention to the films from China, proclaiming, “The selection of Chinese films reconfirmed the fact that, right now, no country in the world is making more interesting and original work.”

Koehler singles in on three films in particular, comments on each excerpted below:

“Xu Ruotao’s Rumination, an astonishing and radical re-envisioning of the Cultural Revolution. Xu comes to the cinema from the visual arts and confidently rejects many conceits of not just historical film genre, but also of the poetic, auteur-driven tendencies that dominate the current festival scene. He often aims to make the viewer reconsider what they think they know about the cinematic re-staging of history. His treatment of Red Guard units running amok in the countryside is alternately a dream choreographed as a riot, and a documentary of the ways revolutionary thought is turned into religion. For instance: during scenes of the soldiers’ chanting and recitation of Maoist cant – interrupted by beatings and the interrogations of innocents – a weirdly feverish ecstasy fills the screen.

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Chinese Films at Vancouver International Film Festival plus Interview with Zhao Dayong

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

I Wish I Knew (dir. Jia Zhangke)

The Vancouver International Film Festival runs from September 30 to October 16. Dragons and Tigers, the Festival’s perennially stellar lineup of new Asian films, once again presents a strong lineup of titles, thanks to the efforts of programmers Shelly Kraicer and Tony Rayns. Jia Zhangke will serve in the Dragons and Tigers jury, along with Korean director Bong Joon-ho and Canadian helmer Denis Cote.

As part of their VIFF coverage, the Globe and Mail interviews Zhao Dayong, whose award-winning The High Life was included in Dragons and Tigers. They open with the rather exasperating question, “Pitch your film in 30 words or less.” (Has Vancouver gone Hollywood?)

The full lineup of Mainland Chinese films selected for Dragons and Tigers follows after the break (without 30 word pitches, sorry!)

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