China Independent Film Fest closes

Source: Reuters (1/11/20)
Independent film festival in China shuts, says ‘impossible’ to pursue independence

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – One of China’s longest-running and largest independent film festivals has suspended operations “indefinitely”, with the organisers saying it was now “impossible” to organise a festival with a “purely independent spirit”.

The China Independent Film Festival (CIFF), which was established in the eastern city of Nanjing in 2003 and has held 14 sessions so far, made the announcement late on Thursday.

It did not provide more details of what pushed it to such a decision, but the move comes amid growing media censorship in China, which has seen regulators crack down on content they believe to violate “socialist core values”.

“We believe, that under current local organisational conditions, that it is impossible to organise a film festival that truly has a purely independent spirit and which is effective,” the CIFF said on its official WeChat account.

“Of course, to those grassroots film festivals that under the mask of security still try to encourage independence, we express our respect.”

CIFF showed around 1,000 films and documentaries since its founding, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) newspaper. A number of them touched on topics considered sensitive in China, such as homosexuality and the relocation of residents under the Three Gorges dam project.

Zhang Xianmin, a professor from Beijing Film Academy who has been the CIFF’s core organiser, told the SCMP on Friday that the closure was “normal”.

“We are just back to the usual rule under the Party. We just went back to 20 years ago, when there was no room and opportunity for independent films.”

“If we had promoted the commercialisation of CIFF, that might have made it safer and we could have had the chance to survive.”

The Wild Goose Lake

Source: SCMP (1/8/20)
Starring Hu Ge and with a plot worthy of Raymond Chandler, film noir by Diao Yinan is a Chinese box office hit, and he says it’s a genre he’ll stick to
Why change a winning hand? Director of The Wild Goose Lake, who’s spun China-set films noir into gold, says he’ll pursue the genre and make films even better. Diao’s films are notable for their style, and he cites influences from Francois Truffaut and Robert Bresson to Chen Kaige and Jia Zhangke.
by James Mottram

Director Diao Yinan (left) and actor Hu Ge in a still from The Wild Goose Lake.

Director Diao Yinan (left) and actor Hu Ge in a still from The Wild Goose Lake.

According to Chinese filmmaker Diao Yinan, there are two types of director.

One will continue pursuing a particular thematic and stylistic trajectory from film to film, “whereas some other directors will take a very different path”, he says. “After one success, they might want to try something thematically or stylistically completely different. Like Kubrick, say.”

As anyone who has seen Diao’s work will know, he’s very much in the former camp, “thinking about continuities”, as he puts it, “and how I’m going to stay on that particular thematic and stylistic track”.

A genre filmmaker who has become increasingly obsessed with the rich framework afforded by film noir, the 50-year-old Diao has already triumphed in this arena, with 2014’s Black Coal, Thin Ice.

Diao’s bleak tale of a murder, in which Liao Fan’s detective tries to piece together the mystery of a dismembered corpse, won the Berlin Film Festival’s top prize, the Golden Bear, with the best actor award also going to Liao.

So it’s no surprise the writer-director has decided to continue on that same neon-soaked path in his latest film, The Wild Goose Lake. Continue reading

Censorship of ‘One Child Nation’

Source: Daily Beast (1/3/20)
How the Truth Disappears: Chinese Censorship and My Film ‘One Child Nation’
By Nanfu Wang
Nanfu Wang, who co-directed the doc “One Child Nation” exploring China’s one-child policy, writes about how state media has scrubbed mentions of her film.

Courtesy Amazon Studios

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about an experience I had as a 13-year-old vocational school student in China. Each night, every class in the school would have to watch Xinwen Lianbo, a daily news program produced by the state-run broadcaster, China Central Television. The same program was broadcast in every city in China, and in schools like mine, it was required viewing for everyone.

To ensure that each student actually paid attention to the broadcast, we were required to write down 20 of the news stories mentioned during the program—10 domestic and 10 international. At the end of the week, every student’s news notebook would be carefully inspected, and anyone who failed to properly record the news reports would be publicly shamed on “Notice of Criticism” billboards positioned around main pathways throughout the campus. I remember being very afraid of seeing my name on those billboards. Continue reading

10 top grossing films of 2019

Source: China Daily (12/13/19)
Year-ender: 10 highest-grossing films of 2019
By Li Wenrui

Posters of six films on the list. [Photo/Mtime]

Editor’s Note: Despite the “cold winter” theory stemming from the lackluster start of 2019, China’s film industry has come through with a chain of homegrown blockbusters and impressive revenues. On Dec 6, the Chinese annual box office crossed the mark of 60 billion yuan ($8.53 billion) — 24 days earlier than the previous year according to China Movie Data Information Network.

At present, 78 pictures exceeded 100 million yuan ($14.22 million), and among these 15 grossed over 1 billion yuan ($142.2 million) and 6 over 2 billion ($284.5 million). In the last fortnight of 2019, highly-anticipated films like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Ip Man 4 will be screened in the Chinese mainland. So the annual box office total is waiting to be unveiled.

Eight of the top moneymakers are domestic productions, such as the phenomenal Ne Zha, the sci-fi saga The Wandering Earth and romantic crime coming of age film Better Days. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, two high-profile pictures My People, My Country and The Captain seized a considerable market share. Moviegoers in Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen contributed most to the national box office. Continue reading

Abandoned children remembered in short film ‘Pearl’

Source: SCMP (12/20/19)
Based on a heartbreaking true story: China’s abandoned children remembered in short film
Chinese filmmaker Yuchao Feng believes his short film Pearl can help heal the wounds of the past for his family and many others who have suffered a similar fate. Feng based his short film Pearl on his mother’s account of being abandoned by her own mother in Fujian province at the age of six
By Kylie Knott

A scene from Chinese filmmaker Yuchao Feng’s heartbreaking short film Pearl, which is about child abandonment and is based on his mother’s childhood.

A scene from Chinese filmmaker Yuchao Feng’s heartbreaking short film Pearl, which is about child abandonment and is based on his mother’s childhood.

One Sunday afternoon in February, 2017, Chinese film director Yuchao Feng was in his flat in the US state of New Jersey when he received a phone call from his mother that would shock and inspire him.

Feng knew something was wrong – not just because it was 3am in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, where Wang Jingjing was calling from, but because they rarely spoke.

“My parents were not around much when I was growing up in Ningde,” says Feng, recalling the city of three million in Fujian province, in the country’s southeast, known for its tea cultivation. “And we talked even less after I moved to the US to study film in 2011.” Continue reading

Minjian: The Rise of China’s Grassroots Intellectuals review

MCLC is pleased to announce publication of Els van Dongen’s review of Minjian: The Rise of China’s Grassroots Intellectuals (Columbia UP, 2019), by Sebastian Veg. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/vandongen/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Minjian:
The Rise of China’s Grassroots Intellectuals

By Sebastian Veg


Reviewed by Els van Dongen
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright December, 2019)


Sebastian Veg. Minjian: The Rise of China’s Grassroots Intellectuals. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019. ix + 352 pgs. ISBN: 9780231191401 (hardcover); ISBN: 9780231549400 (e-book).

“Traditional Chinese scholar-officials are today known as intellectuals. This is however not merely a change in name—it is a change in essence. In fact, this change is the shift of intellectuals from the center to the margin.”[1] Thus stated the intellectual historian Yü Ying-shih in an article published in the Hong Kong-based journal Twenty-first Century (二十一世纪) in August 1991. According to Yü, along with the transformation of traditional scholars (士) into modern intellectuals (知识分子) following the abolition of the examination system in 1905 came a gradual political, social, and cultural “marginalization” (边缘化). Modern intellectuals became, echoing Karl Mannheim, “free-floating.” This marginalization continued unabated—even intensified—through the Mao era and beyond. With Deng Xiaoping’s Southern Tour, 1992’s Fourteenth Party Congress, the commercialization of Chinese society, and the emergence of a new media landscape, traditional notions of Chinese scholars as moral saviors and members of a select club of luminaries have been even further transformed and/or subverted. As the philosopher Chen Lai 陈来 observed, in reform-era China, the public appeared to be more captivated by pop idol TV shows such as Super Girl (超级女声) than by the musings of intellectuals.[2] Concurrently, the repression of the Tiananmen demonstrations effectively ended the already shaky alliance between intellectuals and the state, leaving the “Enlightenment” ideals of the 1980s in tatters. Echoing Yü, we might say the early 1990s marked the double marginalization of traditional Chinese academic intellectuals by the state and the market. Hence, what did it mean to be a Chinese intellectual from the 1990s onwards? How did Chinese intellectuals perceive themselves and their relationship with the state and society? How did they adjust their approaches to changing realities? Continue reading

Vol. 31, no. 2 of MCLC

MCLC is pleased to announce the imminent publication of vol. 31, no. 2 (Fall 2019), a special issue on “Reportage and Its Contemporary Variations,” guest edited by Charles Laughlin and Li Guo. Below, find the table of contents, with links to a pdf of the introduction and to abstracts of the esssays. Subscribers will be receiving their copies over the next couple of weeks. If you would like to purchase a copy of this issue, subscribe to the journal, or inquire about the status of an existing subscription, please contact Mario De Grandis (mclc@osu.edu).

Kirk Denton, editor

Volume 31, Number 2 (Fall 2019) 

Special Issue on Reportage and its Contemporary Variations
Guest Editors Charles Laughlin and Li Guo

Articles

HK Cinema through a Global Lens MOOC

Thinking about Hong Kong? So are we.

Registration is now open for the next offering of Hong Kong Cinema through a Global Lens, the first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on Hong Kong cinema to be produced anywhere in the world. We are proud to remind you that our MOOC was recently named one of “the 10 smartest online courses you can sign up for” by Mental Floss. We invite you to join our educational journey exploring Hong Kong cinema through this award-winning online course. The action begins on February 4, 2020.

Enjoy and engage in conversation on Hong Kong cinema with internationally-recognized film studies scholars Professor Gina Marchetti and Dr. Aaron Han Joon Magnan-Park from the HKU Department of Comparative Literature and Dr. Stacilee Ford from the Department of History, the American Studies Program, and the Gender Studies Program at HKU with the creative assistance of HKU TELI (Technology-Enriched Learning Initiative). Share insights with learners with a range of experiences and interests and find out what you have to learn and offer, regardless of how much or how little you know about Hong Kong and its cinematic scene. Continue reading

Reassessing Chinese Independent Cinema–cfp reminder

Reassessing Chinese Independent Cinema: Past, Present… and Future?
5-6 June 2020
Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne
Final Reminder: Call for Paper Proposals

If Wu Wenguang’s Bumming in Beijing (流浪北京, 1990) is considered to mark the birth of independent cinema in the People’s Republic of China (hereafter China) that cinema will be celebrating its 30th birthday in 2020. But if independence is defined as meaning production without government permission, China’s first film law in 2017 was understood by many as making that practice illegal. The intervening decades saw the emergence of a broader film culture supporting this filmmaking, from film festivals to film criticism, but also this culture’s metamorphosis under pressure from both state and market. Can we still speak of independent cinema in the PRC, and if so, what does it mean to do so? Continue reading

Godfrey Gao (1984-2019)

Source: Fête Chinoise (11/27/19)
REMEMBERING TAIWANESE-CANADIAN ACTOR: GODFREY GAO (1984-2019)
Written by Jennifer Lau

Godfrey Gao at Comic Con 2013. Source: Flickr.

Godfrey Gao at Comic Con 2013. Source: Flickr.

It is with saddened hearts that we remember the young Taiwanese-Canadian actor and model, Godfrey Gao (高以翔).

Gao died while filming in a Zhejiang Television production “Chase Me” (追我吧) — a new reality television show first introduced to audiences in September 2019. The show had recruited various artists including Hong Kong-born actor William Chan (陳偉霆) and Taiwanese singer Jam Hsiao (蕭敬騰) with the objective of having the artists compete against one other in physical activities. Gao collapsed on set on Wednesday. He was sent to hospital and succumbed to a heart attack. The news has flooded Chinese media platform, Weibo, with many fans sharing their grief. Continue reading

Lessons for Hollywood in creative marketing

Source: SCMP (11/26/19)
How China was sold on Oscar winner Green Book, Bohemian Rhapsody and a Lebanese tragedy – lessons for Hollywood in creative marketing
How did a film about America’s Jim Crow South gross US$71 million in China? Make it about the food. And Bohemian Rhapsody? Make screenings a mass karaoke. Alibaba Pictures president Zhang Wei talks Hollywood executives through its successes, and tells them where they have been going wrong.
By Charley Lanyon

What do Chinese cinema-goers want to see? All kinds of films, says Alibaba Pictures’ Zhang Wei. The company used unconventional marketing to drive ticket sales for foreign films in the world’s biggest movie market this year. Photo: Alamy

What do Chinese cinema-goers want to see? All kinds of films, says Alibaba Pictures’ Zhang Wei. The company used unconventional marketing to drive ticket sales for foreign films in the world’s biggest movie market this year. Photo: Alamy

For every The Meg, a CGI extravaganza that wowed cinema-goers in China but not as many in the United States, there is a Crazy Rich Asians, which did the complete opposite. Cracking the Chinese film market is still the holy grail for many in Hollywood, and it was, unsurprisingly, a topic of interest at this year’s US-Asia Entertainment Summit, held recently in Los Angeles.

Among the speakers was Alibaba Pictures president Zhang Wei, who shed some light on the subject. She was responsible for the e-commerce giant’s first major Hollywood investment, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, and what she said took many by surprise. (Alibaba Pictures is part of the Alibaba Group, which owns the South China Morning Post.)

Zhang said Alibaba Pictures’ biggest crossover success this year had been not an action blockbuster with over-the-top special effects but Green Book, a film whose plot depends on an understanding of US history and race relations, which features no big international names, and whose running time is largely taken up by two men talking in a car. Continue reading

Art in Smog

Source: China Channel, LARB (11/18/19)
Four Young Chinese Artists, 25 Years On
By Richard Kraus

Richard Kraus looks at two documentaries on Chinese art by Lydia Chen

Xia Xiaowan, The Wanderer (1997, cropped detail).

In her spellbinding 1993 documentary Inner Visions, Lydia Chen interviewed three struggling, idealistic young Chinese artists. Twenty-five years later, the same profilees are back in Chen’s latest film, Art in Smog, to discuss their careers again – this time as mature artists who worked hard to find their places in China’s now prosperous arts scene. Chen’s long-term relationship with them is unique, and makes for two very special documentaries which anyone who cares about the evolution of Chinese art over the past quarter century should watch. Continue reading

Chinese translation in Spain

Dear colleagues,

TXICC research group (Translation from Chinese into Spanish/Catalan) is glad to announce the publication of two open-access databases which are the result of years of research by some of its researchers.

On the one hand, “El cine chino traducido en España” (Chinese cinema translated in Spain) contains all the films originally produced in Chinese-speaking areas that have arrived in Spain through different channels, such as cinemas, festivals or online platforms. This database seeks to offer a real image of the type of Chinese cinema that arrives in Spain, as well as to provide data to analyse cinema from the perspective of audiovisual translation.

On the other hand, “La literatura china traducida en España” (Chinese literature translated in Spain) is a twin database compiling all the Chinese literature published in Spain and translated into any of its official languages. Its main aim is to provide empirical data to analyse different aspects of Chinese literature through a literary translation lens, e.g. translators’ (in)visibility or the impact of certain literary works through their different editions and translations. Continue reading

Hoklo spy film fest

Source: Taipei Times (11/13/19)
Taiwan’s femme fatales brought back to life
Only about 200 out of over 1,000 Hoklo-language films made between 1955 and 1981 remain, with female spy flicks one of the intriguing genres
by Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Movie poster for The Best Secret Agent, a 1964 Hoklo-language femme fatale movie. Photo courtesy of Taiwan Film Institute

The two existing film copies of The Best Secret Agent (天字第一號) were both in terrible condition. One was overexposed with significant damage in the highlight areas, while the other showed severe deterioration with scratches, stains, mold and flaky coating.

However, it was fortunate that the 1964 Hoklo-language (also known as Taiwanese) femme fatale flick was preserved at all. After the decline of the Hoklo film industry in the late 1970s, many directors sold their reels to scrap dealers, while the film strips ended up as linings for shirt collars, straw hats and wooden sandals. Countless more were lost to floods, fires and the ravages of time. When people started paying attention to these movies again in the 1990s, many had already been permanently lost.

Lee Cheng-liang (李政亮), assistant professor at National Chengchi University’s College of Communication, estimates that out of the more than 1,000 Hoklo films produced between 1956 and 1981, only about 200 remain.

The Taiwan Film Institute (國家電影中心) has taken on the role of preserving, restoring and digitizing these films since 2013. What remains is still quite diverse in genre and style — many taken straight from Hollywood, resulting in curious and campy Taiwanese Westerns and spy movies often featuring female leads. Continue reading

Reassessing Chinese Independent Cinema–cfp

Reassessing Chinese Independent Cinema: Past, Present… and Future?
Conference, 5-6 June 2020
Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne
Call for Paper Proposals

If Wu Wenguang’s Bumming in Beijing (流浪北京, 1990) is considered to mark the birth of independent cinema in the People’s Republic of China (hereafter China) that cinema will be celebrating its 30th birthday in 2020. But if independence is defined as meaning production without government permission, China’s first film law in 2017 was understood by many as making that practice illegal. The intervening decades saw the emergence of a broader film culture supporting this filmmaking, from film festivals to film criticism, but also this culture’s metamorphosis under pressure from both state and market. Can we still speak of independent cinema in the PRC, and if so, what does it mean to do so?

This seems to be a good moment to take stock of the past, present and future of Chinese independent film. We seek papers that address the current and future state of independent filmmaking in China, but also our understanding of this practice and its history. After thirty years, there is a significant body of literature on the subject, in a range of languages. What have we learned? What is missing? And what is still to be done? Continue reading