Behind “Turn it on: China on Film”

Source: China Film Insider (10/12/17)
Behind The Guggenheim’s “Turn it on: China on Film”: An Interview with Wang Fen and Ai Weiwei
By Haisong Li and Chen Zeng

From left to right: Wang Fen, Ai Weiwei.

If China is a mystery to you, if what you learned about this country through newspapers confuses you, how about relearning it through art and cinema?

This fall, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents documentary series “Turn it on: China on Film, 2000-2017,” along with “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World,” an exhibition curated by Phil Tinari, Alexandra Munroe, and Hou Hanru, to showcase work by Chinese artists and groups “whose critical provocations aim to forge reality free from ideology, to establish the individual apart from the collective, and to define contemporary Chinese experience in universal terms.”

This week, in advance of the opening of “Turn it on: China on Film, 2000-2017,” Wang Fen and Ai Weiwei, curators of the documentary series, spoke to CFI on their curatorial process, China, documentary filmmaking, and more. Continue reading

Interview with Shelly Kraicer on Chinese cinema, part 1

Source: Rice Paper Magazine (10/4/17)
INTERVIEW: Shelly Kraicer on Chinese Cinema – Part 1 of 2

Shelly Kraicer, programmer of Dragons & Tigers at VIFF

A long-time Beijing resident (only recently relocated to Toronto by way of Taiwan) for the past decade, Shelly Kraicer has been the programmer of East Asian films for the Vancouver International Film Festival. More recently, he has consulted for the Venice, Udine, Dubai, and Rotterdam International Film Festivals, organizing a retrospective on legendary Hong Kong director Johnnie To for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival’s fall programming.

Known for his encyclopedic knowledge of Chinese cinema, Kraicer has been a tireless promoter of big and small names alike. His selections for VIFF over the years have ranged from shoestring documentaries to big budget costume dramas.

Chances are, if you’ve enjoyed an East Asian film at VIFF in the last ten years,  Kraicer was behind the scenes, pulling the strings to make it happen.  The result has been a phenomenal amount of high quality Chinese language cinema, much of it almost impossible to see otherwise. To find out more about the method behind the madness, I sat down with Shelly to talk about some of his picks for this year’s festival, which runs from September 28 to October 13. – Nick Stember Continue reading

Pingyao seeks to host international film fest

Source: Sixth Tone (10/9/17)
Ancient City Seeks to Host China’s Sundance
Pingyao, a UNESCO World Heritage site, hopes to keep tourists coming with new international film festival.
By Yin Yijun

This article is part of a series about the changing face of Chinese tourism.

A view of Pingyao Ancient City during the annual Pingyao International Photography Festival in Jinzhong, Shanxi province, Sept. 26, 2016. Cheng Yuefeng/IC

Millions of tourists visit the walled ancient city of Pingyao every year, but its faded movie theater has never been an attraction. The theater has been closed for over a decade, idly gathering dust as throngs of people shuffle by.

Nevertheless, the 2,700-year-old city in northern China’s Shanxi province could soon be at the center of Chinese cinema.

Several months ago, pile drivers starting pounding away at Pingyao’s abandoned diesel engine factory, transforming it into the site of the area’s first international film festival. The inaugural Pingyao Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon International Film Festival (PYIFF) — named after the Oscar-winning kung fu movie — will kick off in late October. Continue reading

Why launch of blockbuster postponed

Source: Sup China (10/6/17)
Why did the government postpone the launch of what should have been China’s fall blockbuster?
Pang-Chieh Ho gives you the latest news from film and TV in China. See her previous columns here.
By Pang-Chieh Ho

A promotional poster for Feng Xiaogang’s latest movie, Youth

It should have been a blockbuster, but the Party has a meeting

On September 23, news media began to report (link in Chinese) that the release date of director Feng Xiaogang’s 冯小刚 latest film, Youth (芳华 fānghuá) [aka Pure Hearts], in China had been mysteriously postponed. Youth was originally supposed to premiere on September 29, during one of China’s most lucrative holiday movie slots, the National Day holiday weekend.

Ever since the news about the movie’s indefinite postponement broke, speculation on the reasons behind the axed release has been rife. While neither Feng nor Huayi Brothers Media, the main investor behind Youth, have offered any official explanations for the movie’s delayed premiere, many suspect that the reasons are most likely to be politically motivated (in Chinese), a conjecture that seems only to be strengthened by Feng’s Weibo post (in Chinese), which rebukes claims that the movie’s nixed release was a publicity stunt or due to poor ticket pre-sales. Continue reading

Pure Hearts panned

Source: Sup China (9/27/17)
Terrible film demands apology for honest online reviews
By Jiayun Feng

“This is hilarious. It’s like claiming that you studied hard but got rejected by Peking University, so you decide to ask for an apology from the Education Ministry. There is no correlation between how many years you spent working on a film and the final quality of it.”

“The director should apologize to us for creating such a crap film.”

These are two typical comments (in Chinese) on social media site Weibo in reaction to the news that the producers of Pure Hearts: Into Chinese Showbiz 纯洁心灵 are demanding an apology from, a website that hosts one of China’s best film-rating platforms.

Rated a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10, Pure Hearts was directed by Bi Zhifei 毕志飞, a young filmmaker with a doctorate from the Beijing Film Academy. Featuring only amateur performers, the film tells a cheesy story about a group of aspiring actors and actresses who realize their dreams after a series of setbacks. According to Bi, he put 12 years of “heart and sweat” into the film from casting to directing. Also, without a single celebrity, Pure Hearts defies the long-existing golden rule in the Chinese film industry that only big names can drive box office sales. “The film doesn’t want to be kidnapped by capital,” Bi said. “It intended to win the audience’s applause with its high quality.” Continue reading

“Youth” release postponed

Source: NYT (9/25/17)
Touching on History, a Chinese Film May Have Been Burned by It

Feng Xiaogang after winning the best director award for “I Am Not Madame Bovary” at the Golden Horse Awards in Taipei, Taiwan, last year. The release of his new film, “Youth,” has been indefinitely postponed.CreditTyrone Siu/Reuters

BEIJING — One of China’s most popular directors, Feng Xiaogang, was determined to triumph at the box office with the release of his new film “Youth” during the weeklong National Day holiday.

In the run-up to the film’s expected release later this week, Mr. Feng and his actors had been touring China, promoting the romantic drama set against the Cultural Revolution and China’s brief, harrowing war against Vietnam.

But then Mr. Feng’s premiere was abruptly canceled. Continue reading

Where Has Time Gone portmanteau film

Source: China Daily (8/31/17)
Movie coproduced by BRICS countries to be showcased at Xiamen BRICS Summit
By Xu Fan

With the ninth BRICS Summit to open in Xiamen, Fujian province, Where Has Time Gone?, the first movie coproduced by five BRICS countries, will be showcased at the summit, giving an insight of cinematic cultures and customs.

Jia Zhangke, a famous art house director, known for his fancy of Shanxi province-set stories, led the project as the movie’s chief producer. Continue reading

Soft power, hard sell

Source: Chublic Opinion (9/18/17)
Soft Power, Hard Sell

Wolf Warrior

This summer, the Chinese cinema was not short of home-made explosives. Military-themed Chinese movies marked the PLA’s 90th birthday, and thanks to the Domestic Film Protection Month, no Hollywood blockbusters or other foreign movies diverted the attention of Chinese moviegoers.

One such film, The Founding of an Army, was supposed to be the feature of the month. It is based on Party legend about the Aug 1, 1927 military uprising in Nanchang, Jiangxi province that gave birth to the Communist Party’s force which later became the People’s Liberation Army. The movie joined The Founding of a Republic (2009) and The Founding of a Party (2011) as the final piece in the Founding Trilogy dedicated to the Communist Party’s struggle to establish New China in the first half of the 20th century. Apart from its ideological purity, the movie boasts an all-star cast that includes some of the most popular names with the country’s millennials, a sign of the filmmakers’ intention to win the eyes and ears, if not already the hearts and minds, of a younger generation. In today’s China, the second largest film market in the world, the Party’s blessing alone is not sufficient guarantee of box office dominance. The majority of viewers need to be lured, rather than forced, to see a movie. In this regard, ideological purity could be a liability. Continue reading

5th Annual China Women’s Film Fest

Source: The Beijinger (9/11/17)
Socially Conscious Cinema: Fifth Annual China Women’s Film Festival Comes to Beijing, Sep 16-24
By Kyle Mullin

Socially Conscious Cinema: Fifth Annual China Women's Film Festival Comes to Beijing, Sep 16-24

Hollywood hasn’t exactly caught up with the art house and the documentary scene, at least when it comes to nuanced depictions of women’s lives (not to mention proper opportunities behind the camera, equal pay, and many other matters). Thankfully, there are plenty of talented filmmakers endeavoring to slowly but surely reverse that trend as of late, and you can see some of their best work at the fifth annual China Women’s Film Festival. Continue reading

Must-watch fall films

Source: The World of Chinese (9/6/17)
Coming soon: Must-watch Fall films
With just four months left to go, here’s nine of the best upcoming movies in 2017
By Ethan Yun

Wolf Warrior 2 has been the surprise Chinese hit of the year, breaking all sorts of records on its way to becoming China’s highest-grossing film of all time.

But the last quarter of 2017 has two more high-profile periods—National Day and Christmas—meaning other films will be making their own big push for superstardom before the year is out. Here are the nine domestic movies the nation’s cinemagoers are most looking forward to: Continue reading

Inside the China Box Office

Dear Media Friends,

(New York, NY – September 8, 2017) –China Film Insider is partnering with the China Hollywood Society to jointly present our first online event!

“Insider The China Box Office”, a web panel discussing the ins and outs of the China Box Office, will take place on Thursday, September 14 at 11 am PST/2 pm EST online. Industry experts from both the United States and China will discuss the current state of China box office, how it’s different from Hollywood, dollar splits, growth, and how to navigate the Chinese box office as an independent producer.

Our panelists will include Rob Cain, founder of ChinaFilmBiz and writer at Forbes; Jonathan Papish, reporter and writer at China Film Insider; and Yuan Yuan, USC Peter Stark alumnus and independent producer based out of LA and China.

Time: 11 am PST / 2 pm EST
Date: Thursday, September 14, 2017
Where: Online
Ticket: Free
To RSVP: Continue reading

China will be world’s biggest film market by 2020

Source: China Film Insider (8/31/17)
China Will Be The World’s Biggest Film Market By 2020 Says Media Regulator
The bullish assessment comes as box office hit ‘Wolf Warriors II’ gives the local film industry a welcome shot in the arm.
By Fergus Ryan

China’s rapidly growing film market will surpass that of the US by 2020, says the country’s media regulator.

According to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), China’s box office sales are set to reach RMB 55 billion ($8.36 billion) in 2017 alone.

The country has already surpassed North America with more than 444,000 movie screens including more than 38,300 3D screens as of March 2017, the media regulator said. Continue reading

The Ancient Art of Falling Down

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of “The Ancient Art of Falling Down: Vaudeville Cinema between Hollywood and China–A Conversation between Christopher Rea and Henry Jenkins.” The piece has too many images and video clips to post here in full. Find below the opening description. To read it its entirety, go to: I thank the authors for sharing their work with the MCLC community.

Kirk Denton, editor

The Ancient Art of Falling Down
Vaudeville Cinema between Hollywood and China

A Conversation between Christopher Rea and Henry Jenkins

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August 2017)


Slapstick performance and trick cinematography dominated early global cinema. People climb into boxes and are tossed around; they jerry-rig all manner of dwellings and conveyances; they leap out of windows, crash through doors, dangle from clock towers, and slide down staircases; they appear and disappear like ghosts. But what did such visual gags look like in films made in Shanghai, as opposed to Los Angeles? How did filmmakers from different cultural traditions share or adapt comic tropes—and which ones? And how did their comedy change with technology, such as the advent of sound cinema, or with politics, war, and revolution?

The following conversation between Henry Jenkins, a media scholar who works primarily on American popular culture, and Christopher Rea, a cultural historian of China, explores comic convergences on the silver screen, focusing on filmmakers who embraced a vaudevillian aesthetic of visceral comedy and variety entertainment. It offers a guided tour of cinematic comedy in comparative perspective, drawing out resonances between Hollywood and Chinese films from the 1910s to the 1950s. Illustrating the discussion are clips from a variety of films, from early works by Charlie Chaplin to the short-lived era of cinematic satire in Mao’s China. Continue reading

Twenty-Two’s popularity (1)

I would like to share a news article about the film Twenty-Two that was translated from Chinese and posted on the city hall official website of Jinhua, Zhejiang.

Marco Lovisetto <>

Source: (8/30/17)
Documentary on Comfort Women

August 14, 2017 marks the fifth International Comfort Women Day, which is also the day of the release of Twenty-Two, the first documentary about comfort women allowed to be officially released in China.

On August 12, two days before the film’s debut, 90-year-old Huang Youliang, the only survivor in mainland China who once sued the Japanese government for levying comfort women, passed away at her home in Lingshui Li Autonomous County of Hainan Province.

Su Zhiliang, a professor of Shanghai Normal University and director of the Research Center of Chinese Comfort Women, delivered the news to Jinhua Daily immediately when he saw Huang’s obituary. He urged Jinhua Daily to take good care of the one former comfort woman in Jinhua and keep him informed about her well-being. Continue reading

Twenty-Two’s popularity

Source: Sup China (2/28/17)
Documentary on World War II ‘comfort women’ might become most profitable Chinese movie of all time
Pang-Chieh Ho gives you the latest news from one of China’s most dynamic industries.
By Pang-Chieh Ho

A promotional photo for Twenty-Two

When Twenty-Two (二十二 èr shí èr), a documentary that interviews 22 surviving World War II sex slaves, debuted in mainland Chinese theaters on August 14, nobody had expected that it would be such a big hit with Chinese moviegoers. Made from a paltry budget of 3 million yuan ($450,000), Twenty-Two managed to buck expectations. Not only is it the first documentary to make more than 100 million yuan ($15 million) at China’s box office, according to Mtime (in Chinese), but if it ends up grossing 300 million yuan ($45 million), a goal that analysts are confident the documentary will attain, it will also become the most profitable Chinese movie of all time (in Chinese). Continue reading