Before the Revolution

Source: NY Review of Books (6/7/18)
Before the Revolution
By Louisa Chiang and Perry Link

Little Reunions
by Eileen Chang, translated from the Chinese by Jane Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz
New York Review Books, 332 pp., $16.95

Forever Young
a film directed by Li Fangfang


Eileen Chang, Hong Kong, circa 1954

In 2012, as he ascended to the top of the Chinese Communist Party and its government, Xi Jinping began giving speeches about a “Chinese Dream”: China was to become wealthy, powerful, beautiful, and unified. Of these four goals, wealth and power were especially important because, in an official narrative that had been repeated for decades in schools and the media, China for too long had been bullied by Western powers.

The sense of national humiliation that has seeped into popular consciousness in China has, for many, led to a deep ambivalence toward the West: Chinese admire its wealth, modernity, and freedoms, yet we are rivals, not friends. China’s great modern writer Lu Xun (1881–1936) several times observed that his fellow Chinese look either up at the West or down on it—never straight across. The usual results are caricatures that further impede the possibility of getting a clear look. Continue reading

Documentary Film, Regional, Theoretical and Political Parameters

Documentary Film, Regional, Theoretical and Political Parameters
Academy of Film
School of Communication
Hong Kong Baptist University
Date: 25 -27 June 2018 (Mon-Wed)
Conference Venue: CVA1022, Communication and Visual Arts Building, HKBU, 5 Hereford Road, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong.

Screening Venue: CVA104

June 25 (Mon)

Panel 1: HK Documentary Film       1010-1250pm

Chair: Dr. Lo Wai Luk (HKBU)

  1. Ms. Angelina Chen (Filmmaker)
  2. Ms. Tammy Cheung (Independent Filmmaker)

  3. Ms. Lo Yan Wai Connie (Documentary Film Director)
    Title: “How Patriotism Drives the 67 Riots?”

4.  Dr. Kenny Ng (HKBU)
Title: “In the Mood for Change: Chan Tze-woon’s Mockumentary and Documentary (Yellowing) of the 2014 Umbrella Movement”

5.   Dr. Winnie Yee (The University of HK)
Title: “In Search of the Disappearing Rhymes: Topographical Writings In Three HK Documentary Films”

Continue reading

Tighter regulations on film and tv dramas

Source: Sup China (6/12/18)
Internal Memo Reveals Tighter Regulations On Chinese Films And Television Dramas

Censorship of Chinese films and TV programs has been bad recently, and it’s about to get worse. That’s the takeaway from an internal document circulating in the Chinese entertainment industry.

The memo (in Chinese), obtained and shared by WeChat blogger Xiaode Zhang 晓得张, is allegedly from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (see this piece on recent developments at the organization known as SAPPRFT).

In the document, the government encourages content that showcases “people’s happiness” and features important upcoming events, such as the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the PRC in 2019, and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s 100th anniversary in 2021. Continue reading

Crackdown on film props in HK

Source: NYT (6/1/18)
A Crackdown on Film Props Angers Hong Kong’s Cinephiles
By Mike Ives and Tiffany May

The cast and crew of “Trivisa” at the Hong Kong Film Awards last year. On Thursday, two people involved in the film’s production were given suspended sentences for possession of counterfeit money — bills the defendants said were merely props.CreditAnthony Wallace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

HONG KONG — Counterfeit money is hidden. Police uncover the stash. Justice is served.

It may sound like a film noir plot, but the fake bills had been used as props in an award-winning crime thriller filmed in Hong Kong. And the two suspects — who received suspended four-month sentences on Thursday — were not hardened criminal counterfeiters but members of a film production crew.

The question, local cinephiles say, is why the police even bothered to seek charges.

They say the case illustrates how onerous rules are needlessly hampering a local industry whose golden age of Bruce Lee kung fu films and Wong Kar-wai dramas seems long past, and which is now struggling to competeagainst rising competition from studios in South Korea and mainland China. Continue reading

Bi Zhifei defends “worst film on earth”

Source: Sup China (5/31/18)
Director Stubbornly Defends The Worst Film On Earth
By Jiayun Feng

Director Bi Zhifei 毕志飞, 39 years old, needs you to know that by no means is he getting over his debut film Pure Hearts: Into Chinese Showbiz 纯洁心灵, which was a failure, both critically and commercially. You can see nearly 50,000 negative reviews of the film on (in Chinese), one of China’s biggest and most trusted movie review and culture websites.

The reviews on global movie rating site are no better: “Beyond description awful,” “Awkwardly amateur and terrible,” and “The worst film on Earth” are the top three comments. Continue reading

Johnnie To, godfather of gangster films

Source: Taipei Times (5/19/18)
Johnnie To, still the godfather of gangster films
As Hong Kong’s once-thriving film industry sees a continual decline in production, Johnnie To represents a rare breed of filmmaker with his consistent and diversified output of films
By Paige Lim  /  Contributing reporter in Udine, Italy

Johnnie To at last month’s Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy, where a restored version of his 2004 judo drama, Throw Down, premiered. Photo courtesy of the Far East Film Festival

The name Johnnie To (杜琪峯) is ubiquitous in Hong Kong cinema, but the prolific director and producer claims he might have never ended up making films, if it wasn’t for a stroke of luck 45 years ago.

As a then broke and unemployed 17-year-old, To joined Hong Kong’s leading television station TVB (Television Broadcasts Limited) on a whim, with no clue that it would eventually lead him to his true calling.

“I really just needed a job and some money. It wasn’t my choice, but I happened to be assigned to the drama department,” he says. “If I had been sent to the engineering department, I might have ultimately become an engineer.” Continue reading

China Bound, 1964

Source: LARB, China Channel (5/10/18)
China Bound, 1964
By Bill Callahan

Beijing before the start of the Cultural Revolution – a video by Bill Callahan

In the early 1960s, after being embarrassed at diplomatic events by the mistakes of his interpreters, Zhou Enlai decided that the Foreign Ministry needed to recruit English native speakers to train a new cadre of translators. Australians Colin and Alyce Mackerras answered Zhou’s call, and in August 1964 went to teach English at the Beijing Foreign Languages Institute for two years. Bill Callahan’s short video ‘China Bound 1964’ explores Colin’s experiences as he encountered a radically different way of life. Leaving China in September 1966, he witnessed the transformation of Chinese society provoked by the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.

The film shows how the fine-grained experience of everyday life – teaching class, riding a bike, having a baby – can convey unexpected meanings about grand geopolitical events. With thanks to Bill, ‘China Bound 1964’ is embedded below and also streamable on Vimeo:

People’s Republic of Desire

Source: Slate (4/25/18)
A Documentary Reveals the Dangerous Fickleness of Online Fame in China
In The People’s Republic of Desire, Hao Wu films the lonely shadows where the lines between online and offline dissolve.

“Should I be ashamed? How about you?” The 21-year-old woman stares into her webcam, eyes flat under heavy false eyelashes and her long hair parted, half spilling over her left shoulder. “You self-righteous douchebags!”

It’s taken Shen Man just three years to amass a following of 5 million fans by singing, chatting, and flirting online as a hostess on the Chinese livestreaming platform YY. With large eyes, porcelain skin, and a tapered chin, Shen Man matches the modern Chinese ideal of doll-like beauty. Her voice is usually soft, almost cooing. She’s had plastic surgery to augment her nose, eyelids, temples, and chin, and been professionally coached in how, precisely, to tilt her head and lilt her voice—all preparation to become a virtual girlfriend to lonely hearts across China. Continue reading

A migrant worker’s struggle

BBC Capital (4/17/18)
‘I hadn’t been home for three years’: One migrant’s struggle
China is home to nearly 300 million migrant workers who must leave the countryside for difficult, dangerous jobs in the big city.

Guo Jie, a migrant worker in Shanghai, makes a living by loading enormous stacks of polystyrene foam boxes on her bike, pedalling around Shanghai to re-sell them to wholesalers.

Unwieldly, dangerous and by her own admission a bit scary, it’s a job that proves a challenge to navigate busy roads. It also hints at the struggles the nearly 300 million rural migrant workers face in China. As their country undergoes rapid development, many people from rural communities must leave home behind to look for jobs in the city, where there are more opportunities. Continue reading

First gay-ish film widely released

Source: Sixth Tone (4/16/18)
First Gay-ish Film Widely Released in China
Despite suspected cuts from media regulators, advocates see ‘Looking for Rohmer’ as an important step toward LGBT acceptance.
By Qian Zhecheng

A promotional poster for the recently released film ‘Looking for Rohmer.’

Gay cinemagoers in China are finding “Looking for Rohmer” a bit of a letdown.

Long heralded on Chinese social media as the first gay-themed film to be approved for nationwide release, “Looking for Rohmer” — also known by its prerelease title, “Seek McCartney” — premiered on Friday to mixed reviews. When Sixth Tone’s reporter attended a Shanghai screening on Friday evening, the only three other viewers in the theater were all gay men.

After the final credits, a 35-year-old consultant told Sixth Tone that “Looking for Rohmer” was more arthouse film than “gay film.” He declined to give his name for fear of publicly revealing his sexuality. Continue reading

Qingdao Wanda Film Studio

Source: China Film Insider (4/16/18)
Qingdao Wanda Film Studio Opens April 28

After years of preparation, the Wanda Film Metropolis will formally open on April 28. Jason Wei handles marketing for the hotel portion of the project. Nick Zhang is in charge of marketing for the Wanda Studios portion of the project. I met with them last week at the site for a preview of what will be revealed at the opening.

The commercial part of the project includes a large retail mall, three separate amusement parks (theme park, water park, movie theme park, all indoors for year round operation), at least 6 separate hotels, two large exhibition centers, a large marina and a massive number of condos. Nothing except the condos have formally opened for business.

The movie studio project is being conducted under the heading of Wanda Studios Qingdao (青岛万达影视产业园)which operates separately from the commercial portions of the Film Metropolis. You can check out the studio complex on their website at Continue reading

‘The Possessed’ release delayed

Source: Global Times (4/1/18)
Chinese horror film ‘The Possessed’ delayed for ‘technical reasons’ just four days prior to release
By Huang Tingting

Promotional material for The Possessed Photo: IC

Chinese horror movie The Possessed, a pseudo-documentary that focuses on exorcism culture in the rural areas of Shandong Province, was pulled from this month’s release lineup just days before it was set to hit theaters in China on Wednesday, the film’s studio confirmed on Saturday.

Dubbed “the best Chinese horror movie of the past few years” by some film critics, the low-budget flick from director Ma Ka explores fortune-telling culture and a special exorcism ceremony popular in rural villages throughout the eastern parts of China. The good word around the film made it one of the most anticipated domestic titles coming in April.

The film first captured the attention of the public after it won Best Artistic Exploration at China’s FIRST International Film Festival in 2016. Continue reading

Zurong Dialect Film Fest

Source: Global Times (4/2/18)
Zurong Dialect Film Festival aims to promote productions in local Chinese dialects

The organizers of the Third Zurong Dialect Film Festival [足荣村方言电影节], China’s first movie festival aimed at promoting cinematic works in which a majority of the dialogue is in one of China’s many local dialects, held a press conference in Beijing on Saturday.

While the organizers did not release the location and dates for the festival, they did announce the members of this year’s jury panel and the registration and selection rules for candidate films.

According to the submission rules, any completed production with Chinese subtitles featuring at least one lead role speaking a dialect will be eligible to take part in the festival.

Registration began on Saturday and will end on August 1. Continue reading

Amazon looking to adapt Three-Body Problem

Source: Shanghaiist (3/22/18)
Amazon is looking to turn ‘Three-Body Problem’ into blockbuster sci-fi television series
The company is reportedly likely to earmark $1 billion for project involving the ultra-popular Chinese science fiction trilogy

Chinese sci-fi fans are bubbling over with excitement today following a report that beloved science fiction trilogy “The Three-Body Problem” may be made into a high-budget television series by Amazon.

The Financial Times reported yesterday that the American video subscription service will likely earmark $1 billion in order to acquire the rights to the extremely popular trilogy of novels written by Liu Cixin and produce three seasons of episodes. Continue reading

Taipei lashes out over banning of ‘pro-independence’ actor

Source: SCMP (3/29/18)
Taipei lashes out at Beijing after film with ‘pro-independence’ actor banned
Mainland accused of inconsistency ‘in its words and deeds’ after Missing Johnny screenings barred over claims about its star Lawrence Ko
By Lawrence Chung

Lawrence Ko stars in Missing Johnny, which follows the stories of three young people living in Taipei. Photo: Handout

Taipei has accused Beijing of inconsistency between what it says and does after a Taiwanese film was banned on the mainland amid claims its lead actor Lawrence Ko supports independence for the island.

It comes a month after Beijing introduced a raft of preferential policies for Taiwanese that include more access to the lucrative mainland market for their film, television and books. Continue reading