Posts Tagged ‘wu wenguang’

Cinematalk: Interview with Ying Qian of Harvard

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

By Michael Chenkin

Ying Qian

Ying Qian is a PhD candidate in East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. Qian’s area of focus involves examining the evolving documentary visions in 20th century China. She is interested in the social processes and “film thinking” that have enabled and shaped the making of documentary images, and the ways in which these images have provided framings, interventions and agencies to historical change.

Recently, Qian co-organized a conference titled “Just Images: Ethics and Chinese Documentary” at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard. We spoke with Qian about the highlights of the conference as well as her ongoing research in Chinese documentary.

dGF: Could you give a brief overview of your research? What are your specific interests within the field of documentary film study?

Ying Qian: I’m writing a dissertation on the history of Chinese documentary since the Mao era. I also write about documentary practices in the Republican period in my introduction chapter. My interest in documentary cinema was initiated by encounters with contemporary independent documentary, and I used to make my own documentary films as well.

In my dissertation, I try to move the timeline further back. When talking about contemporary documentary, critics would point out that these films are very different from the official practices and especially from the documentary practices of an earlier era. New documentaries do not usually have a “Voice-of-God” commentary; they also have different approaches to conceptualize reality and deal with contingency in filmmaking. These observations are clearly true; though I think the division between the past and the present is not so binary. When one examines the documentary productions in the Mao-era seriously, one finds some important continuities despite many ruptures. I see documentary of the present as multiple responses to the end of the Mao-era.


The Chinese Artist’s Life, Then and Now: Wu Wenguang’s Bumming in Beijing and Jia Zhangke’s Dong

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Dong (dir. Jia Zhangke)

Published as part of Dong Week at dGenerate Films, a series of articles on Jia Zhangke and the art world in China.

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

Among the remarkable films of Jia Zhangke, Dong (2006) is perhaps a less well-known entry. In this hour-long documentary, Jia follows renowned avant-garde realist painter Liu Xiaodong as he works on his famously large canvas works, capturing demolition workers on China’s Three Gorges Dam and sex workers languishing in the urban squalor of Bangkok, Thailand. Jia allows the camera to go in and out of Liu’s life fluidly, framing the artist’s presence within his surroundings, highlighting the relationship the artist has within a given social environment.

Dong is unique among Chinese independent films in how it demystifies the creative process and explores the artist’s role in society. At the same time, it can’t help but evoke another important documentary about artists in China, one that is credited for launching the New Documentary Cinema (aka the New Documentary Movement) of the 1990s. That film is Wu Wenguang’s Bumming in Beijing: The Last Dreamers (1990).