Posts Tagged ‘zhao liang’

“An Observational Powerhouse:” Review of Zhao Liang’s Crime and Punishment

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Twin Cities area film programmer Kathie Smith reviews Zhao Liang’s documentary Crime and Punishment, which screened earlier this year at the Trylon Microcinema, as part of a series of Chinese independent films programmed by Smith:

Crime and Punishment, Zhao Liang first feature length documentary, is an observational powerhouse. Bringing direct cinema back from the ashes, Zhao adds another dimension to China’s dichotomies by focusing on a small forgotten corner of this rising superpower. Situated on his home turf, Zhao is given unprecedented access to a local police station along the North Korean border. Mean streets these are not. Instead we have life on the margins where ambitions of any kind have left this town behind. The police are candid, the situations are often defy logic, and the arrests add up to little more than harassment masquerading as control. Even moments of idleness seem to be cloaked in an aura of base tedium: cleaning a gun, fiddling with a pair of handcuffs or a bout of wrestling in the snow.

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PBS “POV” Lists Essential Documentaries About China

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Disorder (dir. Huang Weikai) tied for most mentions in PBS' poll of essential documentaries about China

Last month the acclaimed documentary Last Train Home, about migrant laborers in China, made its US television premiere as part of the POV series on PBS. As part of the film’s online promotional efforts, POV polled several filmmakers and experts in Chinese cinema to recommend top documentaries and features about China. We were pleased to see that Disorder tied for most mentions among all films, including a recommendation by Last Train Home director Fan Lixin. Fan writes of Disorder: “A powerful and utterly honest mishmash of the most bizarre images from contemporary Chinese society, with an almost cynical sarcasm. I’ve never seen anything quite like it!”

Other documentaries receiving multiple recommendations: Petition by Zhao Liang, whose Crime and Punishment is distributed by dGenerate, and Up the Yangtze by Yung Chang (who also took part in the poll). Strangely, Blind Shaft also tied for most mentions in this “documentary” poll, even though it is a narrative feature.

Not surprisingly, Jia Zhangke was the most recommended filmmaker, with six mentions spread across five titles. His documentary Dong is distributed by dGenerate.

All the recommendations can be found at the POV website on PBS.

Micro-Dispatches from Film Directors on Weibo, China’s Twitter

Monday, September 26th, 2011

A number of film directors whose titles we distribute have accounts on Weibo, the Chinese microblog comparable to Twitter. We looked through these accounts for interesting messages. The following were compiled by Yuqian Yan.

Ou Ning (director of Meishi Street and San Yuan Li):

9/11 Berenice Reynaud curated the Thematic Retrospective – Digital Shadows: Last Generation Chinese Film for San Sebastian International Film Festival. It will screen 20 films, including Meishi Street. (9/18-9/19, two screenings).

9/11 The press conference for 2011 Chengdu Biennial will be held tomorrow. I’m speechless after I got this notice, “According to the official requirement of the government press conference, please wear light-color, short-sleeve shirt with a tie.” There’s still enough time to buy a light-color, short-sleeve shirt, but no one has ever taught me how to wear a tie …

Zhao Liang (director of Crime and Punishment):

9/13 F***, Money can do everything! (commenting on “the Most Beautiful Moon of the Mid-Autumn Festival)

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CinemaTalk: Conversation with Edward Wong of the New York Times on Chinese Indie Filmmaking

Monday, August 29th, 2011

In the August 14 edition of the New York Times, Edward Wong profiles Zhao Liang, director of two of the most fearlessly independent social documentaries to come from China, Crime and Punishment and Petition. Zhao has recently transitioned to work with the Chinese government to produce Together, an “official” documentary on Chinese HIV victims. That decision and an earlier one involving involving Zhao’s withdrawal from an Australian film festival in support of a political protest by the Chinese government have drawn the criticism of a few occasional supporters and collaborators, including outspoken artist-activist Ai Weiwei, whose detention by the Chinese government this year drew international attention. The article summarizes its central concern in one paragraph:

Mr. Zhao’s evolution from a filmmaker hounded by the government to one whom it celebrates offers a window into hard choices that face directors as they try to carve out space for self-expression in China’s authoritarian system. Like Mr. Zhao, many seek to balance their independent visions with their desires to live securely and win recognition.

Listen to a podcast interview with Wong from the Sinica podcast on Popup Chinese.

We interviewed Wong about his experience reporting this story and its broader relevance on art and culture in contemporary China.

dGF: What attracted you to report on this story?

Edward Wong: While living in Beijing, I had watched and greatly admired two of Zhao Liang’s films, “Crime and Punishment” and “Petition.” In November 2010, I met him at a dinner in the 798 arts district with Karin Chien, the founder of dGenerate Films. At that time, he was working on “Together,” a documentary that the Health Ministry had commissioned as a public service announcement about people with HIV/AIDS. For the film, he had just recorded a song by Peng Liyuan, the celebrity wife of Xi Jinping, the man who is expected to become the next leader of China. Zhao also told me about how he had used social networking websites to track down interview subjects with HIV/AIDS. This new project sounded interesting. We talked a lot too about the making of “Crime and Punishment,” and about how he had lied to police officers to get access to their station house in northeast China.

I found Zhao to be an engaging person, and I thought that he might make an interesting profile. As I spent time with him, I found he had a lot of interesting things to say not only about making films, but also about the role of artists and intellectuals in China.

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The New Yorker’s Richard Brody on Zhao Liang, Jia Zhangke, Ai Weiwei

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

by Kevin B. Lee

Zhao Liang confronted by Ai Weiwei on camera

In his blog on the New Yorker website, critic Richard Brody responds to last weeks’ New York Times cover feature on Zhao Liang, director of Crime and Punishment (distributed by dGenerate) and Petition (which Brody deems “the fiercest and most confrontational film regarding the Chinese government’s suppression of dissent that I’ve seen”). Brody summarizes the article’s charting of the tensions that arose between Zhao Liang and activist/artist Ai Weiwei following Zhao’s following Jia Zhangke’s lead to withdraw their films from the 2009 Melbourne Film Festival in light of political tensions between the festival and Chinese authorities.

Brody focuses on a video of Ai’s on-camera challenge to Zhao for giving in to the government’s demands. Ai also insinuates that Jia withdrew from the festival so as to ensure good standing with the Chinese government in order to produce a government-approved film made for the Shanghai Expo, I Wish I Knew. Brody counters criticism that the film is a feature length promotional video for Shanghai compromised by the constraints of government approval:

If so, the government didn’t get its money’s worth: the film (which I reviewed when it was shown here earlier this year) is an audacious recuperation of ways of life and thought from pre-Communist China, an embrace of Taiwan and Hong Kong, a poignant lament for victims of the Cultural Revolution, and a depiction of the Expo as an alienating, inhuman monstrosity. (He did something similar when making his first officially approved film, “The World,” at Beijing’s World Park.) Jia’s symbolic art, like that of Howard Hawks and Ernst Lubitsch under the Hays Code, is ingeniously conceived to say exactly what’s on his mind regardless of external constraints.

He also tries to broker a conciliatory stance between Ai’s righteous indignation and Zhao’s pragmatic compromise:

Ai’s fury is entirely justified – he has endured, and continues to endure, horrific ordeals in order to live freely under a tyrannical regime, and he is entitled to view those who make common cause with it, of any sort, as being on the wrong side of morality. But only he and others who have endured similar persecution are entitled to say so. Heroism can’t be undertaken prescriptively, and those of us who write and make art without fear of arrest should pause before accusing Zhao of collaboration or cowardice.

Read Brody’s full article.

Jia Zhangke’s Dong and Zhao Liang’s Crime and Punishment are available on Amazon

The Outrageous Reality of Chinese Cops: Crime and Punishment

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

By Steve Erickson

Originally published on Fandor, where Crime and Punishment is available on streaming video.

Zhao Liang has distinguished himself as one of the fiercest of the Chinese documentarians who’ve emerged in the past ten years. His 2007 debut Crime and Punishment offers a dose of Zhao’s filmmaking at full force. At first glance, the film, which closely follows the lives of Chinese military police monitoring a North Korean border town, might bring to mind American reality shows like Cops and its ersatz offspring. But its sensibility couldn’t be more different. Zhao’s film emphasizes punishment more than crime: his cops, remarkable for their lack of media savvy, repeatedly beat subjects in front of his cameras. Unlike American reality TV, these incidents aren’t served to the viewer as exploitation passing as entertainment, but something more ethically committed and unnerving.

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ZHAO Liang

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Zhao Liang

Zhao Liang graduated from China’s Central Academy of Drama in 1985. He supported himself as a photographer while working on his early documentaries. His first feature documentary Crime and Punishment won the Best Documentary award at the Festival des Trois Continents. Zhao’s 2009 documentary Petition: The Court of the Complainants premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. His 2011 film Together is about discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS in China and was commissioned by the Ministry of Health.


FILMOGRAPHY

2011 Together

2009 Petition

2007 Crime and Punishment

2006 Farewell Yuanmingyuan

2005 Return to the Border

2004 City Scene

2001 Paper Airplane

Zhao Liang profiled in New York Times

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

In a lengthy New York Times feature, Ed Wong profiles Zhao Liang, director of two of the most fearlessly independent social documentaries to come from China, Crime and Punishment and Petition. Zhao has recently transitioned to work with the Chinese State Film Bureau to produce Together, an “official” documentary on Chinese HIV victims. As a result, he has drawn the criticism of former supporters and collaborators, including outspoken artist-activist Ai Weiwei, whose detention by the Chinese government this year drew international attention. The article summarizes its central concern in one paragraph:

Mr. Zhao’s evolution from a filmmaker hounded by the government to one whom it celebrates offers a window into hard choices that face directors as they try to carve out space for self-expression in China’s authoritarian system. Like Mr. Zhao, many seek to balance their independent visions with their desires to live securely and win recognition.

Accompanying the article are two videos: one in which Zhao shares his thoughts on filmmaking in China, and another in which Ai Weiwei confronts Zhao on camera over the withdrawal of his film Petition from the 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival in order to avoid political controversy.

dGenerate Films is the distributor of Zhao’s film Crime and Punishment. It can be purchased through dGenerate or Amazon, or viewed online at Amazon or Fandor.

Report on Chinese Independent Documentaries for Roger Ebert’s Website

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

Directors Zhao Liang and Fan Lixin in Zhao Liang's Beijing studio (photo: Grace Wang)

An article of great interest was recently posted in the Chicago Sun Times-based blog, Etheriel Musings: A Journey in China, by Canadian-based blogger Grace Wang, who is a “Far Flung Correspondent” for Roger Ebert. In her lengthy article “Chinese Documentaries: An Inside Look,” Wang emphasizes the importance of Chinese documentaries in the world at large today: “they reflect, from the closest distance possible, in the most direct way possible, the rapid social, political, and cultural changes happening in China right now.”

What Wang believes Chinese documentaries can achieve is fascinating. She argues that Chinese documentary cinema outperforms conventional journalism in bringing “a deep and thorough look” into China because it is unconstrained by “the time-sensitive nature of the journalists’ occupation” and “the bureaucratic red-tape” within the Chinese press. Though it is not specifically noted, we shall understand that here she refers to independent documentaries made largely outside of the state-censored film and media industry.

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Radio Profile of Zhao Liang’s Together, Playing at Hong Kong Film Festival

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Together (dir. Zhao Liang)

Chinese Radio International broadcast a segment profiling Zhao Liang’s new documentary Together. The film will screen at the 35th Hong Kong International Film Festival. You can listen to the program here.

Together is a behind-the-scenes documentary of Chinese director Gu Changwei’s upcoming feature film A Tale of Magic (formerly known as Life is a Miracle), which alludes to the discrimination faced by HIV/AIDS patients in China. Zhao documented the interactions of the cast and crew as they came face-to-face with the disease during the production.

Film critic and blogger Dan Edwards discusses the film in the radio program:

“When you talk about HIV in China, it’s very easy to remain at an abstract level and not relate to what this means for individual people on a daily level… but hearing some of these stories about the gross discrimination and isolation that a lot of HIV sufferers face in China would have been quite a revelation.”

Edwards has written extensively and interviewed Zhao about the film. You can read more from him on his blog Screening China.

Watch Zhao Liang answer questions at the international premiere of Together at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Zhao Liang’s acclaimed feature Crime and Punishment is available in the dGenerate catalog.