Posts Tagged ‘ybca’

Film Comment Spotlights Disorder – playing tomorrow at Pomona, next week in S.F.

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Disorder (dir. Huang Weikai)

In the current issue of Film Comment, Chris Chang labels Huang Weikai’s experimental documentary Disorder a “Hot Property,” describing it as “a city symphony from hell:”

Disorder begins with an image of a geyser unleashed from a broken hydrant. Cut to a man, lying in the street, the victim of a traffic accident. Are the actions related? No clue. People gathering to help the injured party are clearly unnerved by the presence of the camera – one of the film’s recurring panoptic motifs. As they try to aid the fallen man, they accuse him of “faking it” and offer him hush money. A scene of a panicky mob in a supermarket follows shortly; and then, unexpectedly, a close-up of udon noodles. Chopsticks reveal a dead cockroach, and the utensils are then used to resubmerge the bug. That’s one of the many moments of perverse levity – but the film’s general mayhem proceeds inexorably.

Disorder screens at Pomona College this Thursday as part of the series “Between Disorder and Unexpected Pleasures: Tales from the New Chinese Cinema”, Friday at the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival in Ithaca, NY, and next Thursday at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Later this spring it will screen in New York at the Museum of the Moving Image and Anthology Film Archives.

This Week’s Events: 1428 and Fortune Teller in San Francisco, Oxhide II and Disorder in Pomona, and More

Monday, April 11th, 2011


Fortune Teller

Fortune Teller

This week, Chinese films show in Pomona, San Francisco, and Ithaca. Director Liu Jiayin will make a special appearance at a screening of “Oxhide II” at Pomona College, and Karin Chien, president and founder of dGenerate Films, will introduce “Disorder” at the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.

Oxhide II at Pomona College
Director Liu Jiayin in attendance

Part of the series “Between Disorder and Unexpected Pleasures: Tales from the New Chinese Cinema”

Monday April 11th at 7:30 PM

Rose Hills Theatres- Pomona College
170 E Sixth Street
Claremont, CA

Oxhide II is “A masterpiece… inventive, quietly virtuosic.” (Bordwell, Observations on Film Art). Building on the stunning vision of OXHIDE (voted one of the best Chinese films of the 2000s), writer-director Liu Jiayin once again casts herself and her parents in scripted versions of their life in a tiny Beijing apartment. The screening is free.

1428 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Screening as part of the Series: Fearless: Chinese Independent Documentaries

Thursday, April 14th at 7:30 PM

701 Mission Street
San Francisco, California, 94103

1428 premiered in the U.S. in the 2010 Documentary Fortnight Festival at MoMA, won the Best Documentary Award at the 2009 Venice International Film Festival, and won Los Angeles Film Festival’s “2010 Best of the Fest”. The film observes the aftermath of the Great Sichuan Earthquake that took place on May 12, 2008, and left 70,000 dead and 375,000 injured. Tickets for the screening are $7 for general admission and $5 for seniors, students, and teachers. Gallery admission is included in ticket price. Tickets can be purchased online here.

Information on more events in Pomona, Ithaca, and San Francisco after the break. (more…)

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?


This Week’s Events: Multiple Showcases of Chinese Films in Oregon, San Francisco and Los Angeles

Monday, April 4th, 2011


1428 (dir. Du Haibin)

Disorder, 1428, Oxhide, and Oxhide II at the Cinema Pacific Film Festival in Eugene, Oregon

Part of the Cinema Pacific Film Festival. From the Cinema Pacific site:

“CINEMA PACIFIC is an annual film festival based at the University of Oregon in Eugene that is devoted to discovering and fostering the creativity of international films and new media from Pacific-bordering countries, including the U.S. Through onsite and online presentations, the festival connects stimulating artists and ideas with a diverse public, furthering our understanding of world cultures and contemporary issues.”

Tape and Ghost Town at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, California

Part of the series “Fearless: Chinese Independent Documentaries.” From the YBCA site:

“The most compelling, politically engaged documentary cinema in the world right now is coming from China. Totally under the radar, with low/no budgets and little/no hope of their work being shown in their own country, filmmakers are using inexpensive digital technology to tell stories that would never otherwise be told. This is not easy stuff – the films tend to be long, and often depict human rights abuses, stories of chaos and neglect, and of state-sanctioned deception. It is a deeply committed cinema, which expects no less from the viewer.”

Oxhide II and Disorder at REDCAT in Los Angeles, California

Part of the series “From Disorder to Unexpected Pleasures: New Chinese Cinema.” From the REDCAT site:

“In recent years, independent Chinese cinema has experienced a virtual explosion. Digital media have allowed filmmakers to be bolder, more daring and to explore hybrid forms of documentary and fiction, or mix found and live footage while playing with novel formal strategies. Independent Chinese cinema has also come of age. Reaching beyond nostalgia and social protest, it plumbs surprising corners of Chinese reality with humor that is at times light, dark, saucy, dry, raunchy or conceptual. Expect the unexpected.”

Information on individual screenings after the break. (more…)

“A Must See:” YBCA’s “Fearless” Series Reviewed

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

Frako Loden offers the most comprehensive review to date of the series “Fearless: Chinese Independent Documentaries.” screening at the YBCA. This report was originally published in Twitch and The Evening Class. Special thanks to Michael Guillen.


Karamay (dir. Xu Xin)

The 21st-century marriage of the digital revolution with China’s bid for First World status and the resulting collateral damage, has been a boon for documentary filmgoers outside China. Cheap, portable digital technology has enabled an unprecedented flowering of documentary films about this country. Sadly, these films will probably remain unseen by ordinary Chinese given their subject matter and outspoken criticism of authorities’ neglect and mistreatment of minorities, victims of tragedy and artists. Shot with low budgets and under the radar of government surveillance, these works earn the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts new series title Fearless: Independent Chinese Documentaries.”

Documentary film fans who missed distributor dGenerate Films’ ground-breaking series “China Underground” at VIZ Cinema back in December, or New York’s MoMA Documentary Fortnight in February, have a chance to catch two works from the VIZ program plus newer titles, starting this weekend for three weeks at YBCA.

Many of the six works featured in “Fearless” are long. I like SFIFF’s head programmer Rachel Rosen’s characterization of a recent overall trend in film-festival films: they “find their own length.” The subjects of these works have convoluted histories that need to be told. Conventional running times don’t do them sufficient justice, and the patient viewer at any rate soon finds herself deeply and rewardingly immersed.


San Francisco Press Raves Over “Fearless” Series – Films Start This Weekend

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Karamay (dir. Xu Xin)

Fearless: Chinese Independent Documentaries” is a monthlong series of films screening at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. The series opens this Sunday with Karamay, Xu Xin’s 6 hour investigation of the 1994 Karamay fire. Other titles include Disorder, which just won Best Documentary at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and Tape, which recently won the Silver Award at YunFest.

For details on the screenings and venues visit the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Reviews from local press:

SF Bay Guardian:

There is a long history of radical documentaries that contest official histories and sanctioned depictions of everyday life, but rare is the concentrated activism we see in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts series “Fearless: Chinese Independent Documentaries.” These risk-taking records of injustice bear no resemblance to the easy history lessons and celebrity profiles that pass for documentary in the HBO/Sundance sphere. With extended running times and steadfast dedication to witnessing people, places, and histories the Chinese government would just as soon erase, the films are monumental in the deepest sense. “Fearless” opens with Karamay, Xu Xin’s six-hour examination of a tragic fire that killed 323 people while leaving several officials unharmed. As with several of the films that follow, the exhaustiveness of the treatment is itself a rebuke to the government’s suppression of the facts.

SF Weekly:

In December 1994, the top primary-school students in Karamay, China, assembled at the town theater to perform for smiling Communist Party and city functionaries. This was a high honor as childhood events go, a ceremonial rite of passage attended by the heads of the community. Out of nowhere a short circuit ignited something (it’s not known exactly what), provoking this infamous announcement: “Everybody keep quiet. Don’t move. Let the leaders go first.” And so they did. When the smoke cleared, 288 children lay dead, along with 35 teachers and other adults. The government suppressed this heinous display of cowardice and “leadership,” blocking all outlets for the parents’ grief and outrage. Xu Xin’s six-hour documentary, Karamay, is a landmark in journalistic diligence and a dedicated act of commemoration and healing. The opener of the six-film series, “Fearless: Chinese Independent Documentaries,” Karamay generously gives families and teachers space to relate their memories of that awful December day – and how it forever clouded the way they view their country, leaders, and fellow citizens. Made with the expectation that more foreigners would see it than Chinese, this human-scale epic speaks in a language that transcends borders and governments.

Read some interesting responses by Chinese nationals to Karamay when the film screened at MoMA Documentary Fortnight.

Read a review of Karamay by Robert Koehler in Variety.

Tragic Deaths and Media Cover-Ups, from 1994 to Today

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

Earlier this month, the story of a dead Chinese college student circulated the Internet under close monitoring by Chinese press authorities. The 23-year-old man, Zhao Wei, was a college student making his way home by train. He traded his seat with a passenger in another car so as to stay close with his friend. Somewhere during this exchange, he got on the bad side of his train conductor. He was led away by railway police and mysteriously died.

An initial autopsy report ruled that Zhao’s death was due to his jumping off the train. His body suffered many injuries, with signs also showing that he had been handcuffed. Unconvinced by the findings, Zhao’s bereft parents have been trying to petition the authorities to investigate further. As stated by official Chinese news channels, the case will be properly handled by the railway police, which, ironically, may have also caused the death.


“What Else Can We Do?” Personal Responses to Karamay

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

By Kevin B. Lee

Karamay (dir. Xu Xin)

Xu Xin’s devastating epic documentary Karamay is set to make its San Francisco premiere this Sunday at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. (Details here). In advance of the screening, I looked back at footage from a discussion held after the film’s New York premiere at the MoMA Documentary Fortnight last month, with director Xu Xin and producer Zhu Rikun both present. Going into the event, I wondered how a local U.S. audience would respond to a six-hour Chinese documentary, and I was especially curious to see how many would stick around for a Q&A session. By the end of the epic screening, a couple dozen people remained in the audience, and from their words they were clearly moved. In fact, the session was not so much dominated by questions and answers as by a series of intense and highly thoughtful responses from several audience members.

It was particularly interesting to hear the reactions of young overseas Chinese students who watched the film, given the film’s critical subject matter as well as past reports of disturbances at Chinese film screenings caused by nationalistic audience members highly sensitive to unflattering depictions of their homeland. (For a vivid example see Jia Zhangke’s first hand accounts of his recent festival experiences.) In the case of this screening, some Chinese audience members expressed a complex and highly personal response to Xu’s film. One viewer remarked how the film maintains a critical view of Chinese society without catering to Western stereotypes:

“What sets your film apart from other Chinese independent films circulating in the international market is that it does not simply fit into a simplified humanistic or humanitarian rhetoric that most Western viewers impose on China’s situation. We tend to demonize China as such, that their educational system brainwashes people and everyone in China just sits there following the rules without any sense of agency over the experience of their own lives. The very structure of your film, especially the beginning shots that take so long with the close ups of each child, and the six hour length of your film, actually demands the viewer to approach China and contemporary Chinese politics and rethink from a critical point of view, not from a simple humanitarian rhetoric of the West. That’s what I think is the most productive part of your film and I appreciate it.”

Another young viewer had an even more personalized response:


San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Offers a “Fearless” Look at Chinese Independent Documentaries

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Ghost Town (dir. Zhao Dayong)

From April 3rd to April 21, San Francisco’s YBCA will feature six of dGenerate’s films in a special series titled: Fearless. YBCA’s website offers the following description:

The most compelling, politically engaged documentary cinema in the world right now is coming from China. Totally under the radar, with low/no budgets and little/no hope of their work being shown in their own country, filmmakers are using inexpensive digital technology to tell stories that would never otherwise be told. This is not easy stuff – the films tend to be long, and often depict human rights abuses, stories of chaos and neglect, and of state-sanctioned deception. It is a deeply committed cinema, which expects no less from the viewer.

Tickets for the screening are $7 for general admission. Tickets are $5 for seniors, students, and teachers, and those with a valid public transportation pass or a public library card. Gallery admission is included in ticket price. Tickets can be purchased online here.

YBCA is located at 701 Mission Street in San Francisco, California. Detailed directions can be found on the YBCA website. Very special thanks to Joel Shepard, curator of the YBCA film and video program.

More details on each film in the series after the break. (more…)