Posts Tagged ‘zhang xianmin’

Shelly on Film: Fall Festival Report, Part Two: Under Safe Cover, a Fierce Debate

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

By Shelly Kraicer

Shu Haolun's "No. 89 Shimen Road" won the top prize at CIFF, but wasn't shown on Awards Night.

The Nanjing-based China Independent Film Festival (28 October-1 November 2011), unlike the Beijing Independent Film Festival described previously, benefited from a substantial degree of official and semi-official “cover”. Unlike BIFF, there is a certain amount of practical compromise with official bodies and officially approved cinema: purity isn’t such an issue. Co-sponsors include the Nanjing University School of Journalism and Communication, The Communication University of China (Nanjing) and the RCM Museum of Modern Art. The second day of CIFF includes a forum attended by local propaganda department officials. A sidebar of the festival (nicknamed the “Longbiao Section” for the dragon-headed insignia that appears at the beginning of all officially approved film prints in China) included screenings in a luxurious commercial cinema of several films that that are strictly speaking non-independent (i.e. censor-approved) but are made in a spirit of independence. These films would not appear at BIFF, for example, but might show later in official venues like Beijing’s Broadway Cinematheque MOMA, where approved “arthouse cinema” (i.e. non-commercial) finds a refuge in Beijing.


Ode to Life: The Poetry of Qiu Jiongjiong

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

By Sara Beretta

"Madame" (dir. Qiu Jiongjiong)

Qiu Jiongjiong is an artist who paints and makes films; but more importantly, art for him is a way of life, full of vitality and laughter. The preciousness of his work, aside from being technically accomplished with the brush and lens, lies primary in his own personality and attitude. Surprise, enthusiasm and wonder direct his approach to the world and its actors. Everyone plays a special and unique role on the stage of life, author and the viewer included.

In August UCCA (Ullens Center for Contemporary Art) in Beijing held a retrospective of Qiu’s documentaries, curated by master of indie film Zhang Xianmin, including the première of Qiu’s latest work My Mother’s Rhapsody. Art and life have interplayed in Qiu’s personal history since the beginning: born in 1977 in Sichuan, he grew up among actors (his grandfather was a famous Sichuan Opera performer), and started painting and wandering around the stage since he was a child. He still holds the amazed gaze of the child marveling at (re)telling his family’s history, as an ordinary epic saga in black and white poetry, reconstructing and reshaping memories. With the exceptions of Madame (2010) and A Portrait of Mr. Huang (2009), his documentaries are all about his relatives, playing their own role, making up the “Chatterbox Trilogy”. It would be insufficient to go in depth here with all Qiu’s documentaries, any of them worthy of its own entry. But a precis of his Trilogy could help in beginning to approach and to enjoy his poetry.


Spicy, Fresh and Artsy: Zhang Xianmin on Recent Chinese Films

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

By Zhang Xianmin

Zhang Xianmin

Following his recent critique on the state of Chinese cinema “Daytime Booze Nighttime Party,” Chinese film producer / critic / programmer / professor Zhang Xianmin offers further thoughts on current trends in the independent film scene. He also constructs an alternative history of modern China through several documentaries, including three films by pioneering investigative filmmaker Hu Jie, In Search of Lin Zhao’s Soul, Though I Am Gone and East Wind Farm Camp (all available through dGenerate)

I have tried to translate Zhang Xianmin’s essay as close to the original as possible; however, there were instances where I had to abandon the Chinese expressions in the essay for more appropriate English terms.

– Isabella Tianzi Cai

Activities and Works Produced

We had many film-related activities last year. Traditional ones are ploughing on. By “traditional,” I mean activities that have been held for at least five times; they took place in Beijing, Nanjing, Paris, and so on; and they only screened independent Chinese films. New activities are mushrooming. People who have needs spend time making their needs known by others. These needs continue to exist because fulfilling them is a difficult task. Needs linger on in people’s minds, causing people to suffer conflicting thoughts and feelings, depression, anxiety, as well as anger, along with loneliness.


Daytime Booze, Nighttime Party: Thoughts on the Present State of Chinese Cinema

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

By Zhang Xianmin

Translated by Isabella Tianzi Cai

Zhang Xianmin

In this essay, Zhang Xianmin, Professor of Beijing Film Academy, film producer and critic, and organizer of the China Independent Film Festival, comments on the absurdity of China’s film culture and industry today. The essay is divided into four parts: the current cultural milieu, Chinese films’ box office, international film festivals, and the role of the Internet. He argues that first, vibrant film culture exists only in a few major Chinese cities while zero film culture exists in all other places; second, mainland Chinese cinema is not competitive in the global market because it is yet to develop any unique and cross-cultural popular genres; third, award-winning Chinese films at various international film festivals do not have much influence on Chinese cinema but are heavily oriented towards China’s social and political realities; and lastly, Chinese audience consume more foreign films than the other way around. To get his points across, he draws examples from his own experiences as a judge at several international film festivals. Though he can be extremely ironic at times, he shares his most honest thoughts about contemporary Chinese cinema with us in this essay.

I have tried to translate Zhang Xianmin’s essay as close to the original as possible; however, there were instances where I had to abandon the Chinese expressions in the essay for more appropriate English terms.

– Isabella Tianzi Cai

Daytime Booze, Nighttime Party: An Essay on the Lacklustre International Influences of Chinese Cinema in Recent Years

Zhang Xianmin
September 29, 2010

Our Current Cultural Milieu or the So-called Film Environment

Contemporary Chinese culture shows typical signs of a cultural backwater. The creation and recognition of new local cultures are heavily reliant on the existent fame and commercial power of more prosperous places. Cultural resources are clustered in big cities; the rest of China are cultural deserts. If we call this a transition period with Chinese characteristics, it might as well be unprecedented in human history. On the one hand, the cultural development of China lags behind its economic development because the former developed under various kinds of restraints and unhealthy favoritism (we developed but without making progress). On the other, Chinese culture does not have any real power in society; what it has are money-making industries (just like our real estate industry) and politically driven propaganda (in the name of spiritual development). The differences between China and other culturally more developed countries are both the lack of investment by big corporations and the lack of tax incentives for individual cultural workers.


Chinese Students Produce Environmental Short Films

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

The Environment & Human Short Documentary Project is part of a national green project called “Qing Guo Qing Cheng Huan Jing Xin Guan Cha [Green Country Green City Environmental and Spiritual Observation].” The Project is organized and co-sponsored by the Society of Entrepreneurs and Ecology (SEE) Foundation, Beijing Indie Workshop (founded in 2005 by Zhang Xianmin), and the Tencent Company for Public Welfare in China this year. College students from roughly 200 Chinese colleges and universities were encouraged to participate in the project by submitting documentary proposals that investigate current environmental problems and seek innovative resolutions to them. Of the proposals, 20 were selected as finalists. These students were given free training in video filmmaking as well as a small fund to complete their documentaries. Seven documentaries were given special mention by the event organizers. Below is a list of four that received a special public screening at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) on November 9, 2010 in Beijing.

“The Summer of Nima” by JIANG Hua
(video available at
Nima lives with his family deep in the mountains of Shangri-la in Yunnan. For centuries, they have been doing the family timber business. On one summer day, a group of outsiders entered their life, and nothing has been the same since then.

“River Keeper” by ZHONG Yanshan
Two homeless young men make a living by scavenging along the Xi’an Moat. Their life is full of plight and struggles.

“Complete Eggs” by CHEN Liang
(video available at
In the Erguna River Valley in Inner Mongolia, villagers have a tradition of picking up fresh eggs laid by wild birds, but this is having a huge negative impact on the environment.

“Trash Demonstration Village” by ZHANG Hao
Many villagers living next to a huge hazardous landfill site in Heilongjiang are unhappy about their situation, but what can they do?

China Independent Film Fund Announces Grant Recipients

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Announcement of the China Independent Film Funding Recipients at the Fanhall website

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

On November 30, the results of the inaugural grants for the China Independent Film Fund were announced on the Fanhall website. The grants went to two fiction films and two documentaries. Each fiction film was awarded 60,000 RMB (or 9,000 USD) and each documentary was awarded 20,000 RMB (or 3,000 USD). Additional help with translation, distribution, and film equipment is offered alongside with the monetary awards.

Below are the winners:


Collective Excitement: Individual Expressions: The 7th China Independent Film Festival

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Opening Ceremony of the 7th China Independent Film Festival in Nanjing (photo courtesy of CIFF)

By Sara Beretta

The 7th China Independent Film Festival (CIFF), which ran from October 21-25, was a five-day affair packed with screenings and forums. Among the changes in this year’s event were a new curatorial team (Dong Bingfeng, Du Qingchun, Wei Xidi) and a new location, Nanjing University. Under the guidance of Zhang Xianmin (Beijing Film Academy Professor, curator, critic, filmmaker, actor, producer and dGenerate consultant), the curators worked with both the Committee (Cao Kai, Chen Yun, Li Li, Zhang Xiamin, Zhou Kai) and the Selection Team (Cai Meng, Liu Jiayin, Wang Liren, Wei Xidi, Wang Xiaolu) put together a stellar program of events and screenings.


China Independent Film Fund Announced

Thursday, October 21st, 2010
By Isabella Tianzi Cai

Zhang Xianmin, manager of the China Independent Film Fund

At the Pusan International Film Festival, Variety reports that a new fund has been set up to help the production of independent films in China.

The fund is managed by Beijing Film Academy Professor (and dGenerate consultant) Zhang Xianmin and financed by an anonymous donor. Zhang revealed the news as he was attending a Pusan festival forum on film funding. He said that a total of $5,000 to $10,000 would be awarded to two independent feature film productions and two documentary productions each year. Submissions for the inaugural funds are open until November 20.

Further details about the film fund will be disclosed during the 7th China Independent Film Festival (also organized by Zhang), which will take place in Nanjing this year from October 21 to 25.

Hail! Hail! Hail! The State of Chinese Cinema, Part Three

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

This is the second part of a three-part essay by Zhang Xianmin on the state of contemporary Chinese cinema. Read Parts One and Two.

Translation by Yuqian Yan

IV. New Theaters

Another aspect of capital operation is the development of new theaters and their surroundings. A significant trend is that after international capital was fully withdrawn from China due to policy reasons, the newly raised major players are all domestic partnerships.

Megabox Sanlitun Theater, Beijing

Withdrawn capital is mainly from the States and Europe, but those from Hong Kong or Korea are allowed to stay. Even though according to government policy, Hong Kong and Korean capital can only account for a small proportion, their existence allows theaters to maintain their original status as international chain brands. For example, the new theater built in the middle of Sanlitun, Beijing uses a Korean theater brand. One reason is that Hong Kong and Korean investors sometimes agree to disguise international capital under the name of domestic capital through an intermediary, whereas European and American investors always hesitate to make such a suspicious deal. For instance, Warner has stopped expanding its business in China for years. But European and American giants are just waiting for new policies that will offer better opportunities. In the long run, more than half of the Chinese theaters will be controlled by American capital in the future.


Hail! Hail! Hail! The State of Chinese Cinema, Part Two

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

This is the second part of a three-part essay by Zhang Xianmin on the state of contemporary Chinese cinema. Read Part One. Part Three will be posted tomorrow.

Translation by Yuqian Yan

II. Long Live Capital: Non-stop Financing

Red Cliff (dir. John Woo)

The highest level of capital operations, where form and power converge, is to stack stars. The strategy is to stretch the shooting period so that new capital can be accumulated throughout the entire shooting and post-production period, new stars can keep on joining the film during the entire shooting period, the film can be revised over and over again to satisfy new investors, and new plotlines can be added to accommodate newly joined starts. Red Cliff is the first film that is close to this strategy. Its shooting period was so long that they had to make the film into two parts otherwise there would be no chance to make any money. But the version released in the States only has one part.

In 2009, apart from Founding of the Republic, another prominent example of commercial blockbusters using such open strategy during production is Bodyguards and Assassins. Even after the shooting was started, it continued to attract huge capital and film starts from Hong Kong and Taiwan. This is the third stage of financing.

The first stage is that traditionally one film only has one definite copyright owner. The second stage is comprehensive financing, but the ownership has already been divided before the shooting starts. We are now on the third stage, where ownership division and profit share probably will not be determined until distribution.